Israel: 'No intention of provoking anyone'

March 10, 2010 at 5:44 PM

JERUSALEM, March 10 (UPI) -- Israel's interior minister apologized Wednesday for the timing of the announcement of the approval of 1,600 new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem.

Eli Yishai's apology came as U.S. President Joe Biden, in the Middle East to try to restart peace talks, attacked the Israeli decision and its timing for a second straight day.

In an interview on Israel Radio, Yishai apologized "for the distress this matter caused," the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported.

"If I'd have known, I would have postponed the authorization by a week or two since we had no intention of provoking anyone," Yishai said. "It is definitely unpleasant that this happened during Biden's visit."

Yishai said he did not plan to reverse approval of the housing plan, approved by Jerusalem District Planning Committee, which is jointly run by the Interior Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality where the homes would be built north of downtown Jerusalem.

Biden said the decision to build the East Jerusalem housing would jeopardize efforts to get a new round of Israeli-Palestinian talks going.

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