United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has criticized Israel's plan to build new homes in disputed east Jerusalem as a violation of international law.

Mr. Ban's office issued a statement Monday saying the Israeli housing projects also violate Israel's commitments under the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.

Israeli authorities issued tenders Sunday for hundreds of units in two east Jerusalem neighborhoods, Har Homa and Pisgat Ze'ev, built on land that Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast war.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas protested the building plans during a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Monday. Palestinians want east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Mr. Olmert said later that Israel will maintain sovereignty over what he described as "sacred Jerusalem" forever. He said Israel's desire for peace does not contradict what he called the Israeli people's loyalty to Jerusalem as the heart of the Jewish people.

Mr. Olmert was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 41st anniversary of Israel's capture and annexation of east Jerusalem, a move not recognized internationally. He left Israel after the ceremony for a three-day visit to Washington, where he will meet U.S. President George Bush on Wednesday.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the Bush administration does not believe Israel should build any more settlements. She said the moves exacerbate tension in peace talks with Palestinians.

The road map peace plan requires Israel to freeze all settlement activity. Israel says it never agreed to freeze construction in Jerusalem, and says neighborhoods in the city have a different status from settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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