UN chief urges Israel to halt settlements

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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.