Clinton criticism called 'a lot of air'

March 6, 2009 at 11:23 AM

JERUSALEM, March 6 (UPI) -- The newly elected mayor of Jerusalem says he rejects U.S. criticism of plans to demolish 88 buildings housing Palestinian families in order to extend a park.

Mayor Nir Barkat accused U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of meddling in local affairs when she called the proposal for expanding the East Jerusalem park "unhelpful," The Washington Post reported Friday.

"I totally reject the criticism," Barkat said. "It is a lot of air. There is no substance. Maybe it is because there is a new administration in the States."

He said the buildings that need to be demolished were constructed without permits and shouldn't be there in the first place.

The newspaper says Palestinians view the park plans as an effort to expand the Israeli presence in East Jerusalem making it harder for future negotiators to divide control of the city.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

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