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EU envoy: Israel barrier raises concerns

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The separation barrier Israel is building in Jerusalem raises humanitarian problems for Palestinians and could complicate future negotiations on a final peace deal, the visiting European Foreign policy chief said Monday.

Israel's Cabinet on Sunday approved final details of the Jerusalem barrier, which will cut off four Arab neighborhoods with some 55,000 residents from the city, while including tens of thousands of West Bank settlers on the Jerusalem side.

Palestinian officials said Israel's main goal in building the barrier is not improving security but shifting the disputed city's demographic balance in favor of Jews. Israel insists the barrier is only a temporary measure, to keep out suicide bombers, and that it is not drawing a final border around the city, part of which is claimed by the Palestinians as a future capital.

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres, meanwhile, said Israel is seeking an additional $2.2 billion in US aid to help pay for the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

Israel is the biggest recipient of US aid, getting an annual $2.3 billion for economic and military purposes, but says it needs more money to remove some 9,000 settlers and develop the Galilee and Negev Desert regions for resettlement. The request is to be delivered later Monday in Washington.

Palestinians fear that Israel is unilaterally drawing its borders, by pulling out of Gaza, beefing up large West Bank settlement blocs and building the barrier around Jerusalem. The fate of Jerusalem and the settlements is to be determined in talks on a final peace deal.