Israel's Netanyahu denies settlement freeze

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Israel's Netanyahu denies settlement freeze

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He is under intense international pressure but Israel’s prime minister denies he has agreed to suspend Jewish settlement building.

Visiting the villa where the Nazis drew up plans for their so-called “Final Solution” to exterminate Jews, Benjamin Netanyahu spoke out on a trip to Berlin. The Holocaust remains a powerful emotional symbol, casting a shadow over Israeli relations with Germany. Along with Iran, the stalled Middle East peace process was at the heart of his discussions with Chancellor Angela Merkel who urged a halt to Israel’s settlement programme. Having so far resisted such demands, Netanyahu said rumours he had agreed to a temporary freeze had no foundation and were incorrect. Such rumours are fuelled by reports the Israeli leader could meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next month. A halt to settlement building is a Palestinian pre-condition for resuming peace talks. However, a senior US official suggested yesterday that discussions could possibly restart without a complete freeze.