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Quartet wants halt to Israeli construction, return to peace talks

Masked Palestinian protesters jump over burning trash while fighting with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on Friday.

Associated Press

Masked Palestinian protesters jump over burning trash while fighting with Israeli security forces in Jerusalem on Friday.

MOSCOW — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton hailed "useful and productive" signs from Israel on Friday as the so-called quartet of Middle East peacemakers called on Israelis and Palestinians to resume stalled negotiations.

In a strongly worded statement read by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, the quartet — composed of the United States, the United Nations, Russia and the European Union — reiterated its condemnation of Israeli construction in disputed East Jerusalem, promised to monitor developments there closely and renewed its call for a complete halt of all settlement activity.

Clinton did not say whether Israel offered concessions during a Thursday night telephone conversation she had with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. But she stuck to a tone of reconciliation and progress, signaling an emergence from a chill between the United States and Israel over Israel's plans to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem.

"What I heard from the prime minister in response to the requests we made was useful and productive," Clinton said.

The announcement of the new construction, during a visit to Jerusalem last week by Vice President Joe Biden, irked Washington, and Clinton dressed down Netanyahu earlier this week.

The status of Jerusalem is one of the toughest issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Palestinians claim its eastern, historically Arab part as the capital of a future state, while Netanyahu objects to partitioning the city, retreating from positions of previous Israeli governments.

The international community does not recognize Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast War and views the Jewish neighborhoods there as settlements like those Israel has built in the West Bank. Israel has only agreed to curb construction in the West Bank for a 10-month period that ends in September.

This report contains information from the Associated Press and the Los Angeles Times.

Missiles wound 12

Hamas officials said Friday that Israeli aircraft fired five missiles, wounding 12 people. The Israeli military said it targeted militant activities in response to recent rocket fire from Gaza. On Thursday, a rocket from Gaza killed a Thai worker on an Israeli communal farm.

• Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, 75, said Friday that doctors ordered him to rest after a fall bruised his back. X-rays taken at a hospital in Amman, Jordan, showed no broken bones.

Associated Press

Quartet wants halt to Israeli construction, return to peace talks 03/19/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 19, 2010 10:41pm]

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