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Palestinians: Freeze settlement building or no talks

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(JTA) — Palestinian leaders said Israel must extend a settlement freeze for peace talks to continue.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas suspended direct talks last week because Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to extend the 10-month moratorium on new building in West Bank settlements he had used to entice Abbas into talks. The talks had been relaunched Sept. 2 at the behest of the Obama administration.

On Saturday, Abbas convened a meeting of more than 30 Palestinian leaders in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"The leadership confirms that the resumption of talks requires tangible steps, the first of them a freeze on settlements," The New York Times quoted Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top Palestinian negotiator, as saying. "The Palestinian leadership holds Israel responsible for obstructing the negotiations."

The decision was not final; that will not come until Abbas consults with the Arab League on Friday.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, reportedly turned down a U.S. package of security and diplomatic guarantees as compensation for extending the freeze by 60 days.

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