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EU Denounces Israeli Plans for Settlement in West Bank


The European Union has issued a strong statement against Israel's just-announced plans to build a new settlement in the West Bank. From Brussels, Teri Schultz has more on the story.

In a sharply worded statement, the European Union has criticized Israeli plans to put a new settlement in the northern West Bank.

The Israeli government announced Tuesday that plans for the Maskiot settlement had received final approval and that it would go ahead with the construction of homes for up to 100 families on what used to be a military base.

Finland, which holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, issued the statement. It said the Israeli plan would break international law as well as commitments the Israeli government made not to build new settlements under the international peace plan known as the road map.

Israel contends the Maskiot site would not be a "new construction" as there already is some housing in the area that was used by people attending the now-defunct military school there.

The EU statement also says it is "unacceptable" that some of the families destined for Maskiot were among those moved out of Gaza when Israel withdrew Jewish settlers from there last year. At that time the EU welcomed the withdrawal but emphasized that the evacuees must not be relocated into disputed territory, such as the West Bank.

The EU calls it "particularly unfortunate" that Israel has announced this move just after Saturday's long-awaited meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a meeting the EU says had raised hopes for progress.

Addressing the Palestinians, the European Union also urges them to stop the Kassam rocket attacks on Israel that have continued throughout the month-long cease-fire.