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Israeli PM Rejects Halting Settlement Construction

By VOA News
14 September 2009

Israel's prime minister says his country has no plans to completely freeze Jewish settlement construction in occupied territory, despite U.S. and Palestinian demands to stop the building before re-entering peace talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israeli lawmakers Monday he is considering a reduction in settlement building that would last for a limited period. He said Israel has not yet reached agreement with Washington about how long that period would last.

U.S Mideast envoy George Mitchell is in Israel, trying to persuade Israeli and Palestinian leaders to attend three-way talks with U.S. officials on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly session this week in New York.

Palestinians have said they will not participate unless Israel stops building homes on territory Palestinians claim for a future state.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Mr. Netanyahu said Israel does not consider East Jerusalem to be a settlement, and will continue building there.

Israel has said the construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem is necessary to accommodate population growth.

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