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Israel Approves New West Bank Settlement


Officials in Israel say the government has approved the construction of a new settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Officials say construction is to begin within weeks for the settlement in the Jordan Valley, north of Jerusalem. The settlement will house former Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip, who were evacuated last year when Israel withdrew from the territory.

A Palestinian spokesman, Saeb Erekat, condemned the move, saying it runs counter to the spirit of cooperation pledged by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at a meeting last Saturday.

In other news, Israel has announced that Prime Minister Olmert will meet with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak next week at a Sinai resort, Sharm el-Sheikh. Egypt has been mediating between Palestinian militants and Israel on a prisoner swap.

Mr. Olmert has said he wants to evacuate many West Bank Jewish settlements while retaining several large settlement blocks as well as outposts in the Jordan Valley.

The new settlement goes against the U.S-backed "roadmap" for peace between Israel and the Palestinians. More than 200,000 Israelis currently live in settlements on the West Bank.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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