"Illegal settlement outposts were created over the past three years and the procedure engaged for their legalisation are about to be completed," Boim said on Thursday.

The internationally-sponsored roadmap for peace urges Israel to freeze settlement activity and dismantle all outposts established since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon took power in March 2001.

Israel's move to authorise further outposts is likely to further anger its US ally, which has repeatedly voiced its annoyance at Sharon's settlement policy.

Violation

According to the Israeli anti-settlement group Peace Now, there are 103 outposts in the West Bank, including 56 which sprung up since March 2001.

All Israeli settlements constructed in the occupied Palestinian territories, whether authorised by Israel or not, are deemed to be in violation of international law.