Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 09:55 UK

Israel and US row on settlements

Hillary Clinton: "We want to see a stop to the settlements"

Senior Israeli and the US officials have disagreed in public over Israeli settlement building in the West Bank.

On a visit to Washington, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said again that Israel could not accept a complete freeze on settlements.

Standing next to him, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated that the US wanted a complete halt.

She went on to say that Israeli leaders had often in the past staked out positions that had changed over time.

"We want to see a stop to the settlements. We think that is an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state next to an Israeli Jewish state that is secure in its borders," Mrs Clinton said.

Mr Lieberman insisted that "natural growth" - settlement construction with in the boundaries of existing settlements - would continue despite specific US calls for this to end.

"We really don't have any intention to change the demographic balance in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]," he said.

"We think that in every place around the world babies are born, people get married, some pass away and we cannot accept this vision about absolutely, completely freezing settlements."

On Sunday, after weeks of heavy US pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly supported a Palestinian state under certain conditions.

He insisted however, that natural growth at settlements would continue.

All settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. More than 450,000 Jews are living in the West Bank.

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