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Obama Says East Jerusalem Housing Plan 'Not Helpful'

U.S. President Barack Obama has criticized Israel's plan to build homes for Jews in disputed east Jerusalem as "not helpful" to Israeli-Arab peace efforts.

In an interview Wednesday with U.S. television network Fox News, Mr. Obama said the United States and Israel disagree about how to move Israeli-Palestinian peace talks forward.

But, he denied any crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations and said the American and Israeli people have a "special bond that is not going to go away."

Israel announced the plan for 1,600 homes in east Jerusalem last week, triggering condemnations from senior U.S. officials. Palestinians claim the area as a future capital and want the project canceled before entering indirect peace talks with Israel through U.S. mediators.

In the interview, Mr. Obama said his administration also condemns Palestinian riots in east Jerusalem this week in which demonstrators protested Israel's rededication of a historic synagogue. The synagogue is located near Muslim shrines in east Jerusalem's Old City.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to take unspecified steps to revive peace efforts. U.S. officials said Wednesday Clinton was waiting for Mr. Netanyahu to call her with Israel's response.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Wednesday it is "unreasonable" to expect Israel to stop construction in east Jerusalem. Israel captured the city's eastern sector in a 1967 war and claimed the area as part of its eternal capital in a move not recognized internationally.

Clinton is visiting Moscow, where she planned to discuss Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts with other members of the Middle East Quartet of international peace mediators.

She was expected to meet Thursday and Friday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Quartet special envoy Tony Blair.

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