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Netanyahu rejects Clinton criticism

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011; 5:23 AM

Rebuffing U.S. criticism of a new housing project for Jews in an Arab neighborhood of East Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's office said Monday that the project was a private initiative in which the government "was not involved."

Bulldozers tore down a wing of the former Shepherd Hotel on Sunday to make way for the project. That drew a rebuke from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said the action undermined peace efforts.

The property was taken over by Israel after it captured the area in 1967, and it was sold in 1985 to Irving Moskowitz, a Miami-based businessman who supports Jewish settlement in East Jerusalem. Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as their future capital.

"There should be no expectation that the State of Israel will impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property in Jerusalem," the statement from Netanyahu's office said.

Adnan Husseini, the Palestinian Authority's governor of Jerusalem, said the project was not a strictly private enterprise, but part of an Israeli plan to expand the Jewish presence and drive a wedge between Arab areas in East Jerusalem. "This is a strategy of a government," he said.

- Joel Greenberg

Sudan: Violence erupts as voting continues

Violence in the disputed region of Abyei has killed at least 30 people along Sudan's north-south divide, officials said Monday. Observers fear that the unrest could spark more fighting amid an otherwise peaceful independence referendum in the south.

Abyei remains the most contentious sticking point between north and south after a two-decade civil war that left 2 million people dead.

Abyei, which holds oil deposits, had been promised its own self-determination vote, but now whether it remains part of Sudan or joins an independent south will be decided in talks that so far have made little progress.

Voters in the south flooded polls for a second day Monday. The seven days of balloting are likely to produce an overwhelming vote for independence, and Sudan's President Omar Hassan al-Bashir has said he will let the oil-rich south secede peacefully.

- Associated Press

Tunisia shuts schools amid rioting: The Tunisian government has ordered all schools and universities closed indefinitely in response to a month-long wave of rioting over unemployment. Opposition activists said security forces' suppression of the protests had taken as many as 10 lives in the western town of Kasserine on Monday, but there was no confirmation from authorities. The government said at least 14 people had been killed over the weekend; Amnesty International put the death toll at 23.


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