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Obama Urges Israel, Palestinians to Make 'Extra Effort'

Israeli President Shimon Peres (L) shakes hands with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during their meeting in Tel Aviv, 04 Nov 2010

U.S. President Barack Obama has expressed growing concern about the Middle East peace process, criticizing Israel and the Palestinians for not making what he called the "extra effort" needed to build trust.

Suzanne Presto related report:

Speaking in Indonesia Tuesday, Mr. Obama chided Israel's decision to build 1,300 new apartments in disputed East Jerusalem, saying such activity is never helpful during peace talks.

Israel unveiled the construction plans Monday, on the second day of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's five-day visit to the United States.

In a statement Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office insisted that "Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is the capital of the state of Israel."

But both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations expressed disappointment with the Israeli decision.

Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of a future independent state.

Palestinian officials also condemned the construction plans, which call for expanding East Jerusalem's Har Homa neighborhood by 978 apartments and building 320 new apartments in the Ramot neighborhood.

A State Department spokesman said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to discuss the issue when she meets with Mr. Netanyahu in New York Thursday. The spokesman suggested someone in Israel might have timed the construction announcement to embarrass the prime minister during his U.S. visit and undermine the peace process.

The Obama administration has been pushing Israel to curb settlement construction. Disputes over the issue have brought Middle East peace talks to a standstill.

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