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UN's Ban 'Deeply Concerned' About Israeli Settlement Plan in West Bank

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed deep concern about Israeli plans to build a new settlement in the West Bank.

In a statement, Mr. Ban's spokeswoman, Michele Montas, said the U.N. chief has repeatedly stressed that settlement construction or expansion is contrary to international law and Israel's commitments under the "road map" peace process.

She says he urges Israel to freeze all settlement activity and to dismantle outposts erected since March of 2001.

Israeli government officials announced Thursday that Israel is preparing to build 20 housing units in Maskiot, a former army base in the Jordan Valley.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat condemned the new settlement, saying it would undermine U.S.-backed peace talks.

The construction still needs to be approved by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. And a government spokesman, Mark Regev, said Israel would abide by commitments not to expand settlements beyond existing boundaries.

Israeli officials had planned to build the settlement in 2006, but backed off due to international pressure.

If built, the Maskiot settlement would house families who had previously lived in Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, Palestinian police and Israeli media say as many as 150 Israeli settlers rioted Thursday, attacking a village in the West Bank.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The settlers smashed cars and damaged property in Burin, near the town of Nablus.

Israeli officials say the rioters appeared to be from the nearby settlement of Yitzhar, and that police were searching for the perpetrators.

Officials also say a group of about 20 settlers set tires on fire, blocking traffic on a nearby highway, the Shiloh Junction on Highway 60.

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