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Israeli PM En Route to Talks in US

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on his way to Washington, D.C. for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

These are the first direct talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in nearly two years. The talks will focus on efforts to create a future Palestinian state, the goal of the "two-state solution" backed by the United States.

But a major sticking point could derail the talks, which begin Thursday. The Palestinians want Israel to extend a moratorium on settlement construction on land the Palestinians want for a future state.

Israel says continuing the moratorium would upset Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank who have threatened to bring down Israel's ruling coalition if the construction freeze is not lifted.

Mr. Abbas has warned that talks will be curtailed if Israel does not extend a moratorium on settlement construction set to expire September 26. Mr. Netanyahu says only his Likud party can develop a lasting peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Palestinians hope to establish their state in the West Bank, controlled by Mr. Abbas's Palestinian Authority, and Gaza, currently under control by Hamas, which is opposed to peace efforts.

In a speech Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad outlined his two-year plan to create a Palestinian state. But he said the moment has come for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to explain his vision of a future Palestinian state, and he expressed doubts it will be a solution Palestinians could ever accept.

Mr. Obama has said he would like to see a peace agreement achieved within a year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.