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Israeli Minister Seeks Halt to Construction of Palestinian City

Palestinian surveyor works at the site where the first Palestinian planned city, Rawabi, will be build near the village of Atara, near the West Bank city of Ramallah (File Photo)

Israel's environmental protection minister is seeking to halt the construction of a new Palestinian city in the Israeli-controlled West Bank, citing environmental concerns.

Gilad Erdan said Wednesday the project to build the city of Rawabi has insufficient planning for water treatment and waste disposal.

He says "pollution has no boundaries" and could hurt the surrounding Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities if proper environmental plans are not implemented.

Palestinian developers involved in the city's construction have denied the potential threat. They say they have approached Israeli and American companies about building a waste water treatment plant to mitigate the threat.

Settlement building in the West Bank has played a crucial role in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party has urged him not to continue direct peace talks unless Israel reinstates a freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank.

Israel enforced the freeze for a 10-month period that ended September 26, calling it a one-time gesture to encourage Palestinians to enter negotiations. Palestinians object to Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians want for a future state and capital.

Mr. Abbas has said he will decide whether to quit the negotiations after consulting with Arab League foreign ministers in Libya on Friday. He discussed the peace process with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Tuesday.

U.S. President Barack Obama's administration has called on Israel to extend the freeze.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.