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Palestinian call for US to block settlements

PALESTINIAN leaders urged United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday to pressure Israel to freeze construction in West Bank settlements and to also open blockaded Gaza Strip borders.

Clinton arrived in the West Bank under heavy security yesterday, first meeting Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and then Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

She repeated that the US was committed to the establishment of a Palestinian state and she praised Fayyad's plan for rebuilding Gaza.

Fayyad's government outlined the plan on Monday at an international donors' conference for the territory, which was heavily damaged in the recent conflict.

Donors raised US$5.2 billion for Gaza and Fayyad's government, with the US pledging US$900 million.

Clinton also met briefly with young Palestinians studying English, and announced a US initiative to help poorer Palestinian students attend four-year Palestinian universities and give grants to other Palestinians to attend US schools.

In Jerusalem on Tuesday, Clinton said that working toward the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement with Israel "seems inescapable."

Currently, Israel allows several dozen truckloads of aid to get into Gaza every day, but bars the entry of concrete, pipes and other materials that would be crucial for reconstruction. Israel argues that such shipments could be seized by Hamas and used for building bunkers or rockets.


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