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Israeli-Palestinian peace talks look less likely as settlers fret over freeze

As the US steps up pressure for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is insisting on a extension of an Israeli settlement freeze set to expire next month. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has indicated that isn't likely, citing public opposition.

The settlement of Ofra can be seen spreading into the West Bank, in part to accommodate young couples seeking homes of their own.

Christa Case Bryant/The Christian Science Monitor

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Israeli and Palestinian leaders are coming under growing US pressure to enter direct peace talks. But despite international mediation this week, they have been unable to close the gap between what their respective constituents will accept. A key sticking point is the 10-month freeze on Israeli settlements in the West Bank, set to expire next month.

Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo today, insists on a total settlement freeze. On Tuesday, Mr. Abbas presented his proposal for talks to US envoy George Mitchell. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the proposal, arguing that the Israeli public would not accept the preconditions it outlined.

IN PICTURES: Israeli settlements

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