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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders halt to settlement construction

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered on Tuesday a halt to all building in the contested West Bank settlement areas.

The order to stop construction would seem to signal Mr. Netanyahu's willingness to resume peace talks with the Palestinians. United Press International reported that Mr. Netanyahu announced his decision during a meeting with Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.

His announcement is somewhat of a surprise.

It was only a few weeks ago that Mr. Netanyahu told Mr. Ariel that Israel would go forth with the building of hundreds of homes in the West Bank, in defiance of a vote by the United Nations to upgrade the status of Palestinians.

Mr. Netanyahu's decision furthers the wishes of the Obama administration. In March, Secretary of State John F. Kerry asked that Mr. Netanyahu "restrain" from building in certain disputed areas, without asking for an all-out construction freeze, UPI reported.

Mr. Ariel is not pleased with the freeze. He said that his party may not give support for the prime minister's budget if settlement construction is scrapped, UPI reported.

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