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Palestinians Will Ask UN Security Council to Condemn Settlements

Houses under construction in a Jewish settlement near Jerusalem known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, 08 Dec 2010

Palestinian officials say they plan to ask the United Nations Security Council early next month to approve a motion condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank and demanding a complete halt to their construction.

A draft of the resolution, obtained byThe Associated Press Wednesday, calls the settlements "illegal" and "a major obstacle to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace."

The document, dated December 21, also demands that Israel "immediately and completely ceases all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem." It does not, however, ask for sanctions against Israel, and urges both sides to continue negotiations toward a final peace agreement.

An Israeli Foreign Ministry official, Yigal Palmor, rejected the measure, saying that by "choosing unilateralism over direct talks, the Palestinians are declaring they renounce peace altogether."

State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the U.S. agrees continued Israeli settlement activity is "corrosive," but that Washington opposes bringing "final status issues" before the Security Council. He declined to specify whether the U.S. would actually veto a resolution should it be voted on.

A veto - or even an abstention - by the United States would greatly diminish the resolution's significance.

Toner emphasized that such core issues can only be resolved through direct negotiations rather than a U.N. vote, a long-standing U.S. position.

Direct peace talks revived by the U.S. in September after a year's suspension collapsed within weeks when Israel refused to extend a partial freeze on West Bank settlement construction.

Palestinian leaders say they will not negotiate while Israel builds homes for Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas the Palestinians claim for a future state.

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