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NETANYAHU'S 'TIMEOUT' SPURS DOUBTS

Despite a promise to consider a timeout in Jewish settlement building, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intends to spend $300 million on the disputed communities next year, Israeli peace activists said Tuesday.

The 1998 budget of $55 billion has not been approved by Parliament, and the Finance Ministry had no comment on the figure cited by Peace Now.

The peace group, which advocates creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, arrived at the figure after a lengthy analysis of the budget, which spans thousands of pages and was submitted to Parliament on Monday.

Spending on settlements is scattered among hundreds of budget items, including roads, construction, education and tax incentive programs. Several government officials contacted by the Associated Press said they did not know the total figure.

Peace Now spokesman Mossi Raz said the budget allocation for settlements -- which he said is about 20 percent higher than this year's figure -- proves Netanyahu's pledge to the United States was "one big swindle."

"It was supposed to be a timeout on the settlements. But it's like in basketball," he said. "It lasted a minute, no longer."

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