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Israel rebuffs US call for total settlement freeze

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel says it's pressing ahead with the
construction of settlements in the West Bank, in defiance of a
surprisingly blunt U.S. demand that it freeze them.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said
President Barack Obama wants Israel to halt all settlement
construction, including "natural growth." That's a reference to
Israel's insistence that new construction is necessary to
accommodate the expansion of families already living in existing
settlements.
Today, a government spokesman responded by saying "normal life
in those communities must be allowed to continue," meaning some
construction will continue in existing settlements.
The new conflict comes as Obama prepares to meet with
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the White House this
afternoon. Abbas has said the Palestinian demand for freezing
settlements will be at the top of his agenda.


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