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Urging Israeli-Palestinian talks, Obama backs down on settlements

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President Barack Obama may be dropping – or at least softening – his administration’s demand that Israel freeze settlement growth in the West Bank as a precondition to starting peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

That would mark a stark change for the administration, which had pressed Israel to declare a full freeze to all settlement growth in the West Bank to jumpstart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Mr. Obama met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday.

Officials from all three sides said after the meeting that Obama had abandoned the ultimatum he had given Israel, according to some news reports.

CNN reports that United States special envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell said the US is "not identifying any issue as being a precondition or an impediment to negotiation."

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