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US 'Regrets' Israel's Expansion Plans in West Bank

The United States says it "regrets" Israel's plans to approve the construction of new homes in the West Bank instead of agreeing to U.S. calls for a construction freeze.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs released a statement Friday saying the U.S. does not accept the "legitimacy" of Israel's continued construction in the region and will urge Israel to stop. The statement released Friday says the expansion is "inconsistent" with Israel's commitment to an Israel-Palestinian peace plan.

Earlier, an Israeli aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the prime minister plans to approve the construction of hundreds of new homes in the West Bank, before agreeing to a U.S. demand for a freeze.

The aide, who asked not to be identified, said Friday that Mr. Netanyahu would approve the new construction in the next several days, and would then consider a moratorium that would last a few months. Israel also said it would finish some 2,500 other housing units currently under construction.

The United States has said Israel's expansion of settlements in the West Bank is hindering peace talks but Israel has said the new construction is needed to accommodate population growth. Palestinians have said they will not rejoin peace talks until the Israel stops its construction efforts.

The statement from Gibbs says the U.S. appreciates Israel's stated intentions to limit settlement construction and will continue to discuss the issue with Israel.

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