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US repeats opposition to new Israeli settlements

Dec. 3, 2012 8:16 P.M. (Updated: Dec. 4, 2012 9:42 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States urged Israel on Monday to reconsider its plan to erect 3,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, saying the move was counterproductive to peace efforts with the Palestinians.

Angered by the UN General Assembly's upgrading on Thursday of the Palestinians' status in the world body from "observer entity" to "non-member state," Israel said the next day it would build the new dwellings for settlers.

"We urge Israeli leaders to reconsider these unilateral decisions and exercise restraint as these actions are counterproductive and make it harder to resume direct negotiations to achieve a two state solution," White House spokesman Jay Carney told a briefing.

"We reiterate our long-standing opposition to Israeli settlement activity and East Jerusalem construction," he said.

The State Department also said the building could damage efforts to achieve a two-state solution.

"The United States opposes all unilateral actions, including West Bank settlement activity and housing construction in East Jerusalem, as they complicate efforts to resume direct, bilateral negotiations," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.

"This includes building in the E-1 area as this area is particularly sensitive and construction there would be especially damaging to efforts to achieve a two-state solution."

Israel indicated in Monday it had no plan to backtrack on a settlement expansion plan that has drawn strong international condemnation and includes "preliminary zoning and planning work" for settler housing in the so-called "E1" zone east of Jerusalem.

"We have made clear to the Israeli government that such action is contrary to US policy," Toner said in his statement, which urged both Israel and the Palestinians to cease unilateral actions and take steps to return to direct negotiations.

Israel announced plans to build 3,000 more homes in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem on Friday, a day after the UN General Assembly granted de facto recognition to Palestine over Israeli and US objections.
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