'Difficult decisions'

But on Saturday, Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, played down Netanyahu's opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state.

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"I think and believe that Netanyahu will tell Obama this government is prepared to go for a political process that will result in two peoples living side by side in peace and mutual respect," Barak told Israeli television Channel 2.

The Israeli defence minister said he is certain the right-wing government "will be ready to take difficult decisions" to achieve a compromise when the day comes.

Netanyahu's Likud party colleagues, however, have said that the Israeli prime minister would refuse on his US visit to back a Palestinian state.

Netanyahu will propose instead a joint Israeli-Palestinian group to study ways to bring peace, Yisrael Katz, transport minister, said on Saturday.

"Netanyahu will oppose any creation of an armed Palestinian state on Israel's borders, which would endanger Israel's security," the minister told reporters.

Nuclear concerns

The Israeli prime minister is also expected to voice concern about Iran's controversial nuclear programme during his talks on Monday.

Israel and Western nations remain concerned that Tehran's uranium enrichment programme is geared towards the building of a nuclear warhead.

Iran has denied the claims, saying that its nuclear file is dedicated towards the production of electricity.

Obama has signalled his intention to engage Tehran in direct talks in an attempt to end differences over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.