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Rice Calls on Israel to Halt Settlement Expansion

By VOA News
31 March 2008

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has called on Israel to stop expanding its settlements, following an announcement that Israel is planning to build at least 600 new homes in a contested area in the West Bank.

Rice said talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are a step in the right direction. However, she criticized Israel for continuing its expansion which violates the "roadmap" peace plan.

Rice spoke in Jordan Monday where she is holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The meeting comes on the last stop of her three-day visit to the region where she met with Israeli and Palestinian officials in a final effort to push forward a peace deal.

Mr. Abbas says he will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert soon, possibly on April seventh.

On Sunday, Rice secured an agreement with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to ease some restrictions on Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Israel announced it will remove 50 dirt roadblocks and one permanent checkpoint that restrict Palestinian travel between major West Bank cities. Palestinian officials promised to improve security in Jenin, although Israel will keep overall responsibility for the area.

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

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