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US in rare show of anger at Israeli settlements

The US tried to reassure Palestinians of its support yesterday after accusing Israel of undermining trust by announcing controversial plans to expand building in a disputed region.

Vice President Joe Biden said Palestinians deserved a “viable” independent state.

Israel’s plans for more homes in a Jewish district in east Jerusalem has overshadowed Mr Biden's visit, meant to promote a new round of US-led talks, and drawn Palestinian accusations that Israel is not serious about peace. Israel apologised for embarrassing Mr Biden but has no intention of reversing its plan.

Mr Biden told his hosts that the US is committed to brokering a final peace deal.

“The United States pledges to play an active as well as a sustainable role in these talks,” Mr Biden said. He stressed the Palestinians deserved an independent state that is “viable and contiguous,” meaning the territory should not be broken up by Israeli enclaves.

Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has given only conditional support for Palestinian independence and signalled that he wants to retain control of key parts of the West Bank.

The Israeli plan to build 1,600 new homes in east Jerusalem was an embarrassing setback for Mr Biden, who arrived on Monday hoping to further an agreement by both sides to resume indirect negotiations through the mediation of US envoy and former Ulster peace broker George Mitchell.

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