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Netanyahu Begins Five-Day US Visit in New Orleans

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (File Photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning a five-day visit to the United States, meeting first with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the southern city of New Orleans, Louisiana, and then on Monday addressing the annual meeting of the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.

The Israeli leader's talks with Biden are expected to focus on efforts to restart the Middle East peace process. Israel's negotiations with the Palestinians, which were relaunched in early September, are stalled over Mr. Netanyahu's refusal to reimpose a moratorium on the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Later on Monday, Mr. Netanyahu flies to New York to confer with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Israeli officials say the prime minister is to present a plan for the withdrawal from the northern sector of a disputed village that straddles the international border where Israel, Lebanon and Syria meet.

Israel captured the village of Ghajar from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war. Then in 2000 after Israel's withdrawal, U.N. surveyors placed the northern part of the village in Lebanon, leaving Israel in control of the southern half. Israel reoccupied the northern sector of Ghajar in the 2006 conflict with Lebanon's Hezbollah guerrillas. When the fighting ended, Israel pledged to pull out of the northern sector but gave no timetable.

Before leaving the United States on Thursday, Mr. Netanyahu will hold talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has told reporters she is working very hard to get the Middle East peace process back on track.

The Israeli leader will not be meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama who is currently out of the country on an Asian tour.

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