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Netanyahu Concludes U.S. Visit With No Breakthrough Announced

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu leaves the White House after a March 23 meeting.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu appears to have concluded a visit to the United States without any breakthrough to resolve differences with U.S. officials over Israeli settlement plans and getting peace talks with Palestinians back on track.

Netanyahu told reporters as he boarded his plane to depart Washington that he believed some progress had been made toward resolving the dispute.

But U.S. officials quoted by AP said talks between Netanyahu and the U.S. Middle East special envoy, George Mitchell, had failed to heal the row.

Earlier, the White House said President Barack Obama had asked Netanyahu to agree to steps aimed at building confidence in support of indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians under U.S. mediation. Talks between Obama and Netanyahu on March 23 had failed to result in a breakthrough.

The United States has criticized Israeli plans for new homes for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, saying they undermine prospects for a peace deal with the Palestinians, who are demanding a complete settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Palestinians want East Jerusalem for the capital of a future independent Palestinian state.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also repeated his criticism of the Israeli settlement plan on March 24.

"I am aware of the latest news concerning yet another 20 dwellings to be constructed in East Jerusalem, this time in the heart of an Arab neighborhood," Ban said. "I say again, here, what I have been repeatedly saying -- that settlements are illegal under international law. This must stop."

compiled from agency reports