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Netanyahu Expresses 'Regret' About Timing of Housing Plan


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has expressed "regret" to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden about an Israeli ministry's approval of housing plans in disputed east Jerusalem.

Mr. Netanyahu's office says he regrets the timing of Tuesday's housing approval, which came as Biden was visiting Israel to help relaunch Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. It says Mr. Netanyahu told Biden the timing was "unfortunate."

Biden condemned the housing plan Wednesday, saying it undermines trust needed to restart peace talks that have been suspended for 14 months. It was an unusually strong rebuke of Israel from a senior U.S. official.

Palestinian officials demanded that Israel reverse the decision to build homes in east Jerusalem, an area captured by Israel in a 1967 war and claimed by Palestinians as a future capital.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa says Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also scrapped plans to begin indirect peace talks with Israel through U.S. mediators.

Biden was due to wrap up a visit to Israel Thursday with a speech to Israeli students at Tel Aviv University before heading to Jordan for talks with King Abdullah. In Tel Aviv, Biden was expected to speak about an "enduring partnership between the United States and Israel."

Moussa was speaking in Cairo after an emergency Arab League meeting in which members pledged to reconsider their support for the U.S.-proposed peace talks. Arab League foreign ministers are expected to meet in the coming days to make a decision on the issue.

Mr. Netanyahu's office says he reprimanded Interior Minister Eli Yishai Wednesday for the timing of the interior ministry's approval of the east Jerusalem project. But, Mr. Netanyahu took no steps to reverse the decision.

Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital and left the eastern sector out of a 10-month freeze on new housing starts in West Bank settlements announced in November.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and AP.

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