News / Middle East

Obama, Netanyahu Meet Twice at White House Tuesday

U.S. President Barack Obama met twice with Israel's prime minister at the White House Tuesday as the two allies try to resolve a dispute about Israeli housing construction plans in East Jerusalem.

U.S. officials say Mr. Obama initially met with Benjamin Netanyahu for 90 minutes in the Oval Office before retiring to his residence. They say the president returned to the Oval Office for a second, 35-minute meeting with Mr. Netanyahu after the Israeli leader consulted with advisers.

The White House made no statement afterward and kept photographers away from the talks, an unusual step for a visit of a key U.S. ally.

Mr. Netanyahu's office says the talks were held in a "good atmosphere." It says advisers of both leaders will continue discussions Wednesday.

The Obama administration condemned Israel earlier this month for announcing plans to build 1,600 homes for Jews in East Jerusalem, claimed by Palestinians as a future capital.  Israel captured East Jerusalem in a 1967 war and annexed it in a move not recognized internationally.

Mr. Netanyahu declared Monday that Jerusalem is Israel's capital, not a settlement. He rejected the Obama administration's assertion that building in East Jerusalem endangers U.S. efforts to launch indirect Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Saudi Arabia on Wednesday condemned Mr. Netanyahu's remarks as "arrogant" and accused him of disregarding Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights in Jerusalem. State media said Riyadh has asked the international Quartet of Mideast peace mediators to clarify Israel's position.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina accused Mr. Netanyahu Tuesday of obstructing the resumption of peace talks by refusing to stop building in East Jerusalem as Palestinians demand.

Mr. Netanyahu rejected the Palestinian position as "unreasonable and illogical" and warned it could delay negotiations for another year.

Earlier Tuesday, the Israeli prime minister visited U.S. congressional leaders, who gave him a warm public reception and expressed strong support for Israel.

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

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