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US Seeking 4-Month Jerusalem Building Freeze

An Israeli newspaper is reporting that U.S. President Barack Obama wants Israel to freeze construction in East Jerusalem for four months so that stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks can resume.

In a report published Wednesday, Haaretz said in exchange for the freeze, the United States would pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to hold direct talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Prime Minister Netanyahu's office would not comment on the report.

Israel has rejected U.S. pressure to end construction of Jewish housing in East Jerusalem, occupied after a 1967 war, insisting that the entire city is its capital.

An aide to President Abbas, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said Wednesday that Israel must freeze settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank before peace negotiations, whether direct or indirect, can resume.

Palestinians want East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

During talks last week in Washington, President Obama asked Prime Minister Netanyahu to take confidence-building measures to revive the peace process.

Neither Israel nor the U.S. have specified what measures Washington has called for.

Haaretz said Wednesday that a consensus among Prime Minister Netanyahu's Cabinet, which met last Sunday, was that it will be impossible to publicly announce a construction freeze in East Jerusalem. But one possibility would be to reach a "tacit" agreement with the U.S. on the issue.

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