Page last updated at 06:44 GMT, Thursday, 28 May 2009 07:44 UK

No exception on Israeli settlement: Clinton

Mrs Clinton: "The president wants to see a stop to settlements"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said there must be no exceptions to President Barack Obama's demand that Israel stop its settlement activity.

Correspondents say it is the first time in years that US officials have been so vocal in calling for a settlement freeze in the Palestinian territories.

The comments come hours before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet Mr Obama at the White House.

Israel's PM has defied US demands, saying some settlements can expand.

'Very clear'

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with her Egyptian counterpart, Mrs Clinton said that the president was "very clear" with PM Benjamin Netanyahu at their recent meeting that there should be a stop to all settlements.

"Not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions. We think it is in the best interest of the effort that we are engaged in that settlement expansion cease," Mrs Clinton said.

The Israelis describe construction inside existing settlements as natural growth. Mr Netanyahu has said that this will continue.

"There is no way that we are going to tell people not to have children or to force young people to move away from their families," a senior official quoted Mr Netanyahu as telling the Israeli cabinet on Sunday.

However, he has said he is willing to remove makeshift outposts in the West Bank - small settlements, sometimes with only a few people - that the Israeli government itself considers illegal.

Illegal outpost next to Kokhav Ha Shahar settlement

The Obama administration's statements on settlements will be welcomed by the Palestinians, but are expected to cause growing friction with Israel, the BBC's Kim Ghattas reports from Washington.

The Palestinian Authority says it has ruled out restarting peace talks with Israel unless it removes all roadblocks and freezes settlement activity in the occupied West Bank.

President Abbas is expected to reiterate the conditions during talks at the White House with Mr Obama.

Some 500,000 Jews live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem.

Under the US-backed 2003 roadmap peace plan, Israel is obliged to end all settlement activity, specifically including natural growth.

The plan also requires the Palestinian Authority to crack down on militants who seek to attack Israelis.

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