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Rice Criticizes Israeli Settlement Expansion Plans

By VOA News
07 December 2007

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Israeli plans to build more than 300 new homes in a disputed east Jerusalem neighborhood will not help efforts to reach peace with the Palestinians.

Rice made the comments in Brussels Friday following talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on the sidelines of a NATO meeting. Rice said she made it clear that the goal is to build maximum confidence between Israelis and Palestinians.

Negotiators from both sides are due to meet next week for a first round of talks since agreeing to revive negotiations at the recent Mideast Peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland.

In violence Friday, Palestinian medics said Israeli soldiers shot and killed one Palestinian farmer and wounded another in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. The Israeli army says it is investigating the incident.

And in other news, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told reporters in Brussels Friday that Moscow is ready to host a second international Mideast peace conference. He said participants at last month's conference in Annapolis, Maryland, approved Russia as a possible venue for the next such meeting.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the core issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war, but that annexation is not internationally recognized. Palestinians have called for East Jerusalem to be the capital of the state they want to create.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday that Israel's move to invite bids for the construction of 300 new homes is, in his words, "not helpful." Mr. Ban also noted that the U.N. considers such settlements to be illegal.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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