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Israel to expand Jewish presence in East Jerusalem

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 16:08

Jerusalem: Undeterred by turbulence in its ties with the United States and Britain, Israel on Wednesday confirmed further plans to expand the Jewish presence in occupied East Jerusalem, with more building freshly approved.

In a move sure to anger Palestinians and frustrate Western proponents of a freeze on settlement construction, a city official said approval was given to develop a flashpoint neighborhood from which Palestinians were evicted last year.

Word of the move came as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu completed an unusually low-profile meeting in Washington with U.S. President Barack Obama for fence-mending talks, after their open spat over East Jerusalem earlier this month.

Netanyahu says he regretted the bad timing of an announcement of East Jerusalem building plans during the visit of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden two weeks ago, which Washington called "insulting."

But on Monday he insisted before an audience of influential American Jews that "Jerusalem is our capital" and building will continue there as Israel sees fit.

His defiant assertion coincided with a public slap to Israel from Britain, which announced it was expelling an Israeli diplomat over the forgery of British passports used by the suspected killers of a Hamas commander in Dubai.

Israel said it regretted Britain`s decision but commentators on Wednesday predicted no meaningful damage to bilateral ties.
Irish, French, German and Australian passports were also forged by the assassination squad, and their authorities were expected to examine Britain`s evidence implicating Israel.
In a comparatively rare public complaint, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday asked major powers involved in Middle East peace-making for "clarifications about Israel`s arrogant policy and its insistence on defying international will."

Bureau Report

First Published: Wednesday, March 24, 2010 - 16:08
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