Netanyahu travels to US for key talks on peace deadline

JERUSALEM - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu left for Washington Sunday for talks about the US-led peace process with the Palestinians and nuclear negotiations between world powers and Iran.

Although Netanyahu would like the talks with US President Barack Obama on Monday to focus on Iran, the White House appears to have a different agenda.

"Obama will press him to agree to a framework for a conclusive round of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations that is being drafted by Secretary of State John Kerry," the New York Times quoted senior US officials as saying this week.

Direct peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, which began last July with the goal of reaching a deal within nine months, have made no visible progress.

Kerry is now focused on getting the two sides to agree on a framework proposal which would extend the deadline until the year's end.

Although the document has not yet been made public, it is understood to be a non-binding proposal laying out guidelines for negotiating the central issues of the conflict, such as borders, security, Jerusalem, Israeli settlements and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The proposal, or its outline, is likely to be presented to Netanyahu next week and to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on March 17 when he meets Obama at the White House.