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Israel should halt settlement plans - U.N.'s Ban

MYT 2:46:22 AM

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Israel to halt plans to build hundreds of new homes in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, Ban's spokeswoman said.

"The secretary-general calls on the government of Israel to halt settlement expansion and reiterates that the fulfillment of 'road map' obligations by both parties is an important measure underpinning the political process between them," Ban's spokeswoman, Michel Montas, said in a statement.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to Reuters TV in Washington October 12, 2007. (REUTERS/Hyungwon Kang)

The expansion, which the Palestinians denounced as another blow to U.S.-brokered peace talks, was announced on Sunday, just three days after a Palestinian gunman killed eight students at a Jewish seminary in Jerusalem that was associated with the settler movement.

"Any settlement expansion is contrary to Israel's obligations under the road map and to international law," Montas said.

The U.S.-mediated peace talks, launched in November with the goal of reaching a statehood agreement before U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January, have been stalled by disputes over Jewish settlement building and a deadly Israeli offensive in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

The Middle East "road map" for peace, first outlined in 2002, calls on Israel to halt all settlement activity and on the Palestinians to rein in militants.

The guardian of the road map is the so-called Middle East quartet consisting of the United States, the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations.

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