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Israeli PM Suspends West Bank Withdrawal Plans


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has suspended plans to pull out of parts of the West Bank, saying priorities have changed.

Mr. Olmert told an Israeli parliamentary committee Monday that a West Bank realignment is not as high on his list of priorities as it was earlier this year, when the plan helped him win election.

Two top Olmert advisors are expected in Washington this week to explain the change in plans to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Olmert plan would close down a number of small Israeli settlements in the West Bank while merging several larger settlements close to the Israeli-Palestinian border.

An Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip last year was followed by an increase in Palestinian rocket attacks into Israel.

Israel also said Monday it plans to build nearly 700 new houses in two West Bank settlements. Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned this, saying it undermines efforts to revive the peace process.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.
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