Palestinians urge halt to settlements

Palestinian officials have called on the United States to step in and urge Israel to halt its settlement-expansion plans.

    Palestinian Premier Ahmad Quraya met with two US envoys

    The Palestinians on Thursday asked visiting US envoys to help block the expansion of the largest Jewish settlement in the West Bank, warning that the planned construction would cut off East Jerusalem, the Palestinians' intended capital, from territory they seek for a future state.

    All Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal under international law.

    Israel plans to build 3500 more homes in Maale Adumim, driving a wedge between East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

    Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya told National Security

    Council official Elliott


    and David Welch, assistant secretary of state for

    the Near East, that

    he expected Washington to take a clear position against Israeli settlement expansion plans.

    "The United States knows the details and the dangers of such plans for the road map and President Bush's vision of the peace process," Quraya was quoted by his office as saying.

    Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the envoys expressed US opposition to the plan to build 3500 housing units around Maaleh Adumim, "but we told him that is not enough," calling for US pressure on Israel to halt all construction in settlements and the Israeli separation barrier along and in the West Bank.

    Expansion plan

    US State Department officials have said the two envoys were seeking clarifications from Israel on the expansion plans,  language that implies criticism.

    Israeli lawmakers said on Wednesday that Sharon's government has revived an old plan to build 3500 new housing units around Maale Adumim to encircle traditionally Arab East
    Jerusalem with Jewish neighbourhoods.
    Palestinians object to any Israeli construction in the West Bank and warn that this could kill chances for peace by preventing the creation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

    Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.

    Menachem Klein, an adviser to the Israeli negotiating team at the failed Camp David peace talks in 2000, said the plan, known as E-1, calls for building houses on the last stretch of empty land between east Jerusalem and West Bank population centers.

    Labor lawmaker Yuli Tamir said she first began hearing of the revival of the E-1 plan a few weeks ago. "There is a
    feeling in the government that while the world is focused on Gaza, it is possible to build in the West Bank," she

    Apology demanded

    In another development, the Palestinian Authority demanded
    an apology from Libyan ruler Muammar al-Qadhafi, who called
    Palestinians "stupid" in his speech at the Arab summit on

    "Ghadafi's words harmed the emotions of ... the
    Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims," the statement said. "We
    have enough headaches, and the Palestinian people do have
    not enough aspirin."

    Ghadafi also called the Israelis "stupid."



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