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Sharon Approves Controversial Jerusalem Barrier Route

A top Israeli official says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has approved the final placement of a barrier around Jerusalem that would encompass a controversial Jewish settlement on Palestinian-claimed land.

Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israeli radio Mr. Sharon approved the plan late Sunday after meeting with top officials. The enclosed Israeli area would include the largest Israeli settlement in the West Bank - Maaleh Adumim. Israel says the wall will help keep out militants. Palestinians say Israel has used the barrier issue as an excuse to grab land.

The approval comes as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan meets with Israeli and Palestinian officials to encourage peace talks between the two sides.

Meanwhile, Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs are preparing for more talks on the Israeli handover of five West Bank towns to Palestinian security control.

Some information for this report provided by AP.