Israel says it is clueless about US deadline on settlement freeze

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Jerusalem, July 12 (ANI): Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon has said the Benjamin Netanyahu government has no knowledge of any six-month deadline given by the US for freezing settlement construction in the West Bank.

"We have no knowledge of this whatsoever," The Jerusalem Post quoted Ayalon, as saying.

Earlier a Lebanon daily had quoted French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, as saying that if Israel failed to stop all Jewish construction in the West Bank within six-months, the US would end support for peace talks.

Kouchner reportedly expressed his fear that Israel's "stubbornness, intentional foot-dragging and acquiescence to the Israel lobby" would convince the Americans to pull out of peace discussions altogether.

The French foreign minister was in Beirut on Friday for talks with senior Lebanese officials, including Hizbullah legislator Nawaf Musawi.

The meeting with Musawi was aimed at facilitating a new coalition government led by Prime Minister-designate Sa'ad Hariri. Hariri's government is likely to include Hizbullah representation, though the Shi'ite group was defeated in national parliamentary elections.

Israel is opposed to Hizbullah joining the government.

Netanyahu's advisor Mark Regev responded to the Kouchner-Musawi meeting by warning that "if Hizbullah joins the Lebanese government, then Lebanon as a country will be responsible for any Hizbullah aggression against Israel. That has to be clear."

Kouchner's meeting with a Hizbullah lawmaker is the latest in a string of European meetings with the group, which the US and the European parliament have recognized as a terrorist organization.

"Hizbullah is part of the parties that participated in the recent parliamentary elections. It is natural to meet with its representatives," Kouchner told reporters.

"Lebanon is a democratic country; democracy implies we meet with opposition figures as well." (ANI)

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