US 'Disappointed' As Settlement Building Ban Ends

"The US state department has said it is ""disappointed"" by Israel's decision not to extend its ban on settlement building in the West Bank. The 10-month moratorium came to an end at midnight (2200 GMT on Sunday). The UN, the EU and France all expressed disappointment at what Ban Ki-moon called Israel's ""provocative"" actions.Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas said he would respond to the decision after a meeting of Arab leaders in Cairo next Monday. On Sunday, he had warned that direct Israeli-Palestinian peace talks - renewed earlier this month - would be a ""waste of time"" unless the ban continued. With peace negotiations in the balance, Mr Abbas is in a difficult position and he may be forced to compromise, says the BBC's Jon Donnison in the West Bank town of Ramallah. Under pressure from the United States, there are signs Palestinian negotiators may accept that the moratorium on building is not officially going to be extended, as long as no major construction takes place in the coming weeks and months, our correspondent adds. On Monday, bulldozers started levelling ground for 50 homes in the settlement of Ariel in the northern West Bank, and similar activity was also reported in the settlements of Adam and Oranit. But construction work was reportedly slow because of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.The state department praised what it called Mr Abbas's restraint, adding that the US remained focused on the peace process's long-term objectives.The US Middle East envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, would return to the region in an attempt to break the negotiations deadlock, a state department spokesman said. Speaking at a Paris press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Abbas said he would discuss the settlement issue with Palestinian negotiators in Ramallah on Wednesday, and the 22-member Arab League in Cairo next Monday. ""After all these meetings we may be able to issue a position to clarify what is the Palestinian and Arab opinion on this mat