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Obama and Israeli PM meet amid dispute

world Updated: Mar 24, 2010 08:58 IST

AP
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President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House in the midst of a serious dispute that spoiled what might have been a celebration of a recent agreement for a new round of peace talks with the Palestinians.

Obama and Netanyahu conferred for about 90 minutes on Tuesday in the Oval Office, but in a break with custom reporters were not invited to see the close allies shake hands and begin their discussions.

The White House had no immediate comment on what was discussed. Netanyahu did not leave the White House for another two hours after his formal talks with Obama, but what he was doing during that time was not immediately clear.

At issue is Israel's announcement two weeks ago, as Vice President Joe Biden visited the country, that it will build 1,600 new apartments in east Jerusalem, the largely Arab section of the disputed holy city.

Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state and have delayed new US-sponsored peace talks over what they say is an Israeli land grab.

Israel yesterday unveiled a grandiose plan for hotels, businesses and new housing for Palestinians in the centre of east Jerusalem, but the announcement only brought Palestinian suspicion that it was an unacceptable payoff for new building in Jewish neighbourhoods.

The plan calls for developing a large area across from the Old City wall for tourism and commerce, as well as building 1,000 additional apartments.