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Israeli foreign minister pushes for new settlement construction

JERUSALEM — Israel's hard-line foreign minister said Monday that his party will try to block any extension of Israel's settlement slowdown, a move that could derail the recently launched Mideast peace negotiations.

Avigdor Lieberman said the Israeli government must keep its promise to voters that the 10-month slowdown, declared in November under U.S. pressure to draw the Palestinians to the negotiating table, will end as scheduled at the end of the month.

"A promise is a promise," Lieberman told Israel Radio. "We will not agree to any extension."

The Sept. 26 deadline is a challenge for the fragile talks launched in Washington last week. Palestinians say they will quit the talks if settlement construction accelerates, but not ending the slowdown could bring down the Israeli government.

Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party is a key member of Israel's governing coalition, which is led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party. Yisrael Beitenu holds 15 seats in Parliament, making it the second-largest member of the coalition and giving it the ability to rob the government of its parliamentary majority if it pulls out.

Still, Lieberman told the daily Yediot Ahronot, he would not quit the coalition if he does not get his way. "We will not leave or bring down the government. We will fight from the inside for what we believe," he told the paper.

Israeli foreign minister pushes for new settlement construction 09/06/10 [Last modified: Monday, September 6, 2010 11:09pm]
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