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UN chief urges Israel to halt settlements
UN chief urges Israel to halt settlement construction in bid to salvage Mideast peace efforts
By The Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) ' U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has asked Israel to halt settlement construction in the West Bank as a way to restart Mideast peace efforts.

At a news conference Wednesday, Ban told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that settlements are "not helpful."

He urged Israel to refrain from further construction as a goodwill gesture. He also pressed Israel to present concrete proposals on borders and security to the Palestinians.

Ban is visiting Israel and the Palestinian areas in a bid to salvage the latest round of peace talks. Low level discussions broke off last week, just weeks after their launch, over the settlement issue.

Netanyahu said the question of settlements should be part of "final peace talks," not a precondition for restarting negotiations.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

JERUSALEM (AP) ' U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon is on a Mideast peace mission aimed at salvaging the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian talks.

The sides began low-level discussions last month about restarting formal peace negotiations after a three-year lull. But the dialogue came to a halt without any breakthroughs last week.

Ban is visiting Israel and the Palestinian territories in hopes of keeping the dialogue moving.

Ban met early Wednesday with Israel's president, Shimon Peres, before talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Later, he is to meet with Palestinian officials in the West Bank.

Ban visited Jordan, which is mediating the talks, on Tuesday. In Amman, he urged Israel to make goodwill gestures to keep the dialogue alive.

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