- Associated Press - Monday, September 27, 2010

JERUSALEM | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday that he would wait at least a week before deciding whether to quit Middle East peace talks, giving U.S. mediators precious time to broker a compromise after Israel refused to extend its 10-month moratorium on new West Bank settlement construction.

Mr. Abbas has threatened repeatedly to withdraw from the newly launched negotiations if Israel resumes building in the settlements.

During a visit to Paris, Mr. Abbas said he would not make any hasty decisions because the stakes were high. He said he would consult with the Palestinian leadership before discussing the matter next week with representatives of the 22-member Arab League.

“We will not have any quick reactions,” he said while standing beside French President Nicolas Sarkozy for a news conference. “After this chain of meetings, we will be able to put out a position that clarifies the Palestinian and Arab opinion on this issue now that Israel has refused to freeze settlements.”

The construction restrictions that the Israeli government ordered expired at midnight Sunday with no sign that Israel was heeding U.S. and Palestinian pressure to keep the curbs in place.

That threw the 3-week-old peace talks into doubt. But the Americans said they were still working with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to find a formula that would keep the negotiations alive.

Mr. Abbas on Monday urged Israel to extend the settlement slowdown for three or four months to allow for a discussion of “fundamental issues” in negotiations.

In Cairo, an Arab League official said Arab foreign ministers were expected to endorse whatever position Mr. Abbas took. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because no decision had been made.

Jewish settlers in the West Bank jubilantly marked the end of the construction curbs on Sunday, sending thousands of blue and white balloons — the colors of the Israeli flag — into the air and breaking ground on a kindergarten. They vowed to build thousands of homes.

On Monday, there was a smattering of construction in different settlements across the West Bank.

Settler leaders acknowledged that construction activity would be minimal in the coming months, in part because banks and developers are reluctant to commit to projects out of fear that building would be stopped again.

Palestinians regard settlement as a major obstacle to peace because the construction is on land they claim for part of a future state.

About 300,000 Israeli settlers live in communities scattered across the West Bank, in addition to 180,000 Jewish Israelis living in East Jerusalem, the area of the holy city claimed by the Palestinians as their capital.

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