Thu, Sep 23, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Israel vows to stop building settlements in Gaza, West Bank


Israel assured US President George W. Bush's administration it would build no new Jewish settlements on the West Bank or in Gaza but did not promise to stop "natural growth" of existing communities as families grow larger.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom gave the assurances Tuesday to Secretary of State Colin Powell after Bush, in a speech to the UN General Assembly, called for a freeze on settlements on land where the Palestinians hope to establish a state.

"We are committed not to build more settlements, not to extend or enlarge them," Shalom said after his 40-minute meeting with Powell. Also, Shalom said Israel would remove some two dozen remaining temporary outposts in the territories it seized from the Arabs in 1967. That request also was registered by Bush in a speech that urged world leaders to halt support for any Palestinian leader who betrays the cause of the Palestinians.

Shalom said, "You cannot force young people who are getting married out of their villages, their settlements. You cannot do it."

Bush, in his speech, called the Palestinians "long-suffering" and said they deserve "true leaders capable of creating and governing a free and peaceful Palestinian state."

Meanwhile, a female Palestinian suicide bomber blew herself up near a crowded bus stop in Jerusalem yesterday, killing one other person and wounding at least 14 others, Israeli authorities said.

The explosion occurred at a busy intersection in French Hill, a Jewish neighborhood close to the West Bank. The neighborhood had been attacked by suicide bombers in the past.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to The Associated Press.

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