Israeli, Egyptian leaders discuss peacemaking

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Egypt on Thursday to help persuade the Palestinians to enter direct peace talks, bringing calls from Egypt's president for Israel to take "confidence building" steps to bring a resumption of negotiations.

U.S. efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations fell apart over the issue of Jewish settlements. Israel has rejected Palestinian demands for a halt in settlement building in the West Bank and Jerusalem, and the Palestinians have refused to enter talks without a halt.

Meeting in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Netanyahu asked Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to try to persuade the Palestinians to return to "direct, intensive and serious" negotiations where all core issues of their conflict would be raised, an Israeli government statement said.

Mubarak stressed the need for Israel "to review its positions and policies and to adopt tangible confidence-building measures with the Palestinian Authority to create suitable atmosphere to resume the talks," Mubarak's spokesman Suleiman Awwad told reporters.

Before heading to the meeting, Netanyahu said he would also discuss the common threat posed by Iranian-backed militant groups, saying Gaza-based Hamas militants and Lebanese Hezbollah guerrillas want to "disturb the quiet" but "we will not let them."

Both groups have warred with Israel. Egypt, which shares a border with the Gaza Strip, is worried by their Islamic militancy and Iranian ties.

The latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks was launched in early September, but broke down just three weeks later in the dispute over Israeli settlements. This week, Netanyahu offered nonstop negotiations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas until peace is reached. In response, Abbas and his chief negotiator repeated Palestinian demands — a halt to Israeli settlement construction and a pledge that a future border give Palestinians all of the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, with minor exchanges of territory.