Mr Netanyahu met in New York on Tuesday with President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was Mr Netanyahu's first meeting with Mr Abbas since the prime minister came to power in March, but peace negotiations have not officially resumed and there was no obvious progress.

Israel's foreign minister said on Wednesday that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's summit with the Palestinian and American leaders was a victory because it took place even though Israel rebuffed demands to freeze settlement in the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu met in New York on Tuesday with President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. It was Mr Netanyahu's first meeting with Mr Abbas since the prime minister came to power in March, but peace negotiations have not officially resumed and there was no obvious progress.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said the meeting showed Israel's firm stand against a settlement freeze was effective.

``This government has shown that you don't always need to get flustered, to surrender and give in,'' Mr Lieberman told Israel Radio. ``What's important for me is that this government kept its promises

to the voter ... and the fact is that this meeting happened.''

Mr Obama and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have previously demanded a full halt to construction in the settlements. The Palestinians, emboldened at least in part by the U.S. stand,

said they would not resume negotiations without a freeze.

Past rounds of negotiations have been conducted while construction went on in Israeli settlements, where the population has more than doubled to 300,000 since Israel and the Palestinians signed a landmark agreement in 1993.

Mr Obama did not explicitly call for a settlement freeze at Tuesday's meeting, and George Mitchell, the White House Mideast envoy, said afterward that the administration does not see a resolution of the settlement showdown as a precondition for resuming negotiations.

The U.S. position was a boost for Israel and rankled Palestinians, who are still demanding a settlement freeze as a condition for talks.

Seeking to simultaneously appease the U.S. and his hardline coalition government, Mr Netanyahu has agreed to slow settlement construction for a limited time. He has said construction will continue on some 3,000 housing units.

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