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Israel and the Palestinian Authority will begin negotiating over “core” peace obstacles.

Negotiators for both sides will meet Monday for the first round of talks tackling so-called “core issues” such as Jerusalem, borders and refugees that have stymied past peace efforts.

The new diplomatic drive was launched last week ahead of President Bush’s visit to the region, during which he outlined his hope of clinching an Israeli-Palestinian accord within a year.

According to media reports, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas already are close to an informal agreement, but both leaders face serious domestic challenges.

Olmert’s coalition government includes right-wing parties that have threatened to block any attempt to cede areas of Jerusalem to a future Palestine. One party, Yisrael Beiteinu, said Sunday it would bolt the coalition should there be progress in the discussions of the “core issues.”

Abbas, whose authority has been reduced to the West Bank since Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June, would have a hard time winning popular support for an accord that requires Palestinian refugees be resettled in the future Palestine rather than return to land in Israel.

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