Israeli groups say Netanyahu freezes new settlement building

JERUSALEM (AP) - Two prominent Israeli groups say Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has stopped approving new construction in West Bank settlements in what could be an attempt to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

Anti-settlement group Peace Now, which monitors new construction, says Mr Netanyahu has not approved new building tenders in the settlements since winning a new term in January elections.

The group says previously approved settlement building has continued.

Mr Yigal Dilmoni, an official in the Yesha settlers group, says Mr Netanyahu's office confirmed to him that the prime minister has stopped approving housing tenders.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, a pro-settler hard-liner, met with Mr Netanyahu met last week. The minister refused to comment on the reported settlement freeze in an Army Radio interview on Tuesday.

Mr Netanyahu's office had no immediate comment on the reports.