DIGEST

World news roundup: Israel won't restrict construction in East Jerusalem

Monday, March 22, 2010

ISRAEL

Netanyahu: Sharp words about E. Jerusalem

Israel will not restrict construction in East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday, hours before leaving for Washington, despite a clear U.S. demand that building there must stop amid a spat between the longtime allies.

His meeting with President Obama on Tuesday will be the first high-level meeting since the crisis erupted 10 days ago, when Israel embarrassed visiting Vice President Biden by announcing a plan for construction in a Jewish neighborhood in East Jerusalem, which has been claimed by the Palestinians.

But there were signs that Israel was working to repair the relationship. Despite Netanyahu's comments, cabinet ministers said while there would be no formal freeze, construction in Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem would be restricted.

At stake are the first peace contacts between Israel and the Palestinian government in more than a year. The Palestinians agreed to mediated talks, but the East Jerusalem construction flap has given them second thoughts. Israel said it prefers direct negotiations but would go along with the indirect format.

On Sunday, Netanyahu met with Obama's special Mideast envoy, George J. Mitchell, who is set to mediate. He delivered the White House's invitation to the prime minister.

-- Associated Press

Ban wants Israel to end Gaza blockade

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on Israel to end its blockade on Gaza, imposed after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier in 2006 and tightened when the Islamic militant group Hamas overran the territory the following year.

Israel allows only basic humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

The blockade causes "unacceptable suffering" and "undercuts moderates and encourages extremists," Ban said after visiting a housing project in the Khan Younis refugee camp in Gaza.


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