March 15, 2010 - 12:00am

The US State Department said Monday it was waiting for a "formal" Israeli response to its concerns, declining comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's remarks in support of settlements.

Netanyahu earlier Monday indicated that construction of Israeli settlements would continue in east Jerusalem, despite a tense phone call last week from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urging him to stop.

"When she outlined what she thought appropriate actions would be to the prime minister, she asked for a response by the Israeli government. We wait for the response," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

Pressed for a reaction to Netanyahu's remarks, Crowley said: "We asked for a formal response from the Israeli government and when we get that response we'll react to it."

Crowley also hinted that former senator George Mitchell may reconsider a trip planned to the region this week depending on developments.

"This is a fluid situation. As of this moment he's still in the United States," Crowley said.

State Department spokesman says Mideast envoy Mitchell may reconsider planned trip to region due to crisis over Israel's east Jerusalem construction plan. 'This is a fluid situation,' Crowley says

However, the spokesman also stressed that Washington will continue to consider Israel a strategic partner.

A US official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mitchell's trip was not directly tied to the Israeli response, as he may find it useful to visit the region even if the United States is disappointed with the reply.

The United States expects the response "soon" but does not have a deadline set, the official said.

Clinton and Mitchell are due to hold talks starting Thursday in Moscow of the so-called "Quartet" on the Middle East peace process -- the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017