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Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman late Wednesday reiterated Israel’s objection to a complete settlement freeze as the United States considers allowances that could permit some projects already under way to proceed.
"We want to see a stop to the settlements," Clinton told reporters as she stood next to Lieberman, himself a settler.
"We think that is an important and essential part of pursuing the efforts leading to a comprehensive agreement and the creation of a Palestinian next to an Israeli Jewish state that is secure in its borders and future," she said.
Israel did not have "any intention to change the demographic balance" of the West Bank, said Lieberman, head of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beitenu party, part of Netanyahu's Likud-led coalition government.
"But we think that as in any place, babies are born, people get married, some pass away and we cannot accept this vision about an absolutely complete freezing of settlements," said Lieberman.
"I think that we must keep the natural growth," he said.
"This approach is very clear and also we had some understandings with the previous administration (of George W. Bush) and we try to keep this direction," he said.
"In looking at the history of the Bush administration, there were no informal or oral enforceable agreements," she said, repeating earlier statements.
Mitchell has said a key element has been trying to pin down exactly what Israel means by the "natural growth." Netanyahu says he wants growing families to be able to accommodate their children in towns that Israelis have built on occupied land.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said allowances for continued building could be made if, for example, a project in a settlement was nearing completion or for cases in which money has been invested in a project and cannot be reimbursed.