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UN chief Ban Ki-moon meets Benjamin Netanyahu

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UN chief Ban Ki-moon meets Benjamin Netanyahu

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UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has toured areas of the Gaza Strip where the blockade on building materials means homes destroyed by Israel’s three week offensive against Islamic militants in January 2009 still lie derelict. Those living here say life is desperate.

Israel has kept Gaza under a tight blockade since Hamas seized control from rival Fatah forces in June 2007.

Ban Ki-moon also urged the Israeli Prime Minister to call a halt to all settlement expansion to allow indirect peace talks to take place: “We believe that these proximity talks should eventually lead to direct negotiations between the two concerned parties to discuss all other matters: security, water, refugees and other other issues”

Benjamin Netanyahu says his government will not restrict building in East Jerusalem, putting him further at odds with Washington, ahead of a visit there this week.

Special U.S. envoy George Mitchell will also return to the region to push for both sides to start indirect negotiations.