US urges Israel to freeze settlement

JERUSALEM - The US has asked Israel to commit to a one-year freeze of West Bank settlement to prod Arab countries to take steps towards normalising relations with the Jewish state, an Israeli newspaper said yesterday.

Defence minister Ehud Barak, pictured, declined to comment.

Ha'aretz newspaper said the proposal was raised by US President Barack Obama's special envoy, George Mitchell, during talks in Jerusalem last week with prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Israel, which has been resisting Washington's demand for a settlement halt in the occupied West Bank, prefers a six-month freeze, the newspaper said. The issue has opened the widest rift in US-Israeli relations in a decade.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said peace talks with Israel cannot resume until settlement activity ceases. - Reuters