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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 April, 2005, 12:50 GMT 13:50 UK
Israel 'to keep some settlements'
Palestinian construction workers at Maale Adumim settlement
Israel plans to link Maale Adumim with Jerusalem
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has reiterated that Israel will keep hold of some settlements in the West Bank.

Speaking a day after meeting George W Bush, Mr Sharon said the settlement blocs would "be part of Israel, with everything that that entails".

On Monday, the US president said he recognised Israel's need to keep part of the West Bank, but warned against settlement expansion.

Palestinian officials have urged Israel to heed Mr Bush's call.

'New realities'

Speaking to reporters before flying to Washington, Mr Sharon said Israel had established settlements on land captured in the 1967 Middle East war for defensive purposes.

"It was not to antagonise the US, but to keep areas that seems strategic to Israel," he said.

Israeli settlements around Jerusalem

He indicated that a controversial plan to build thousands of homes linking the biggest settlement of Maale Adumim and Jerusalem will go ahead, despite international opposition, the Associated Press news agency reported.

Such a move would defy President Bush's call for an end to settlement expansion.

After meeting Mr Sharon at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, on Monday, the US President said he had been "very clear".

"Israel has an obligation under the roadmap [peace plan]. That's no expansion of settlements".

However Mr Bush repeated a view first announced last year that he did not expect Israel to withdraw to pre-1967 boundaries, citing "new realities on the ground".


Mr Bush did not specify what action, if any, might be taken against Israel if it continued to build in the West Bank.

Home to 35,000 settlers
Plan for 3,500 new homes
Established 1975

The BBC's Barbara Plett said it was unclear whether Mr Bush was simply registering protest or exerting real pressure on Israel to freeze settlement activity now.

Saeb Erakat, a key Palestinian negotiator, said an end to settlement building "is the key to everything".

"Failure to adhere to the president's call to stop all settlement activity literally means we will not be able to talk about the two-state solution."

Mr Sharon insisted he was committed to the roadmap, but added that talks with the Palestinians could not move forward until there was a full cessation of violence.

The international community considers all settlements in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Hear more about what the two leaders said

Israel and the Palestinians



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