US policy change on Israeli settlements?
Anger at US settlements 'shift'
Palestinian officials have reacted angrily to reports the US is willing to accept some Jewish settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza.
The New York Times newspaper quoted a US official as saying there was a "covert" shift towards accepting "natural growth" within settlements.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said such a move would destroy hopes for peace.
All settlement activity is prohibited under the US-backed roadmap peace plan. Settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. Last week the US avoided criticising Israeli approval for 1,000 new settler homes in the West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon delayed sanctioning the new homes under pressure from the US, before ensuring they would be within existing built-up areas, according to Israeli media reports.
The Israeli government argues that settlements should be allowed to expand within their boundaries - so-called "natural growth".
The roadmap calls for a freeze on "all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)", as well as an end to Palestinian violence.
Blow to peace'
Mr Qurei said he was waiting for clarification on the US position.
"This will destroy the peace process," he told reporters.
The presence of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza is one of the most contentious issues between Israel and the Palestinians.
The Palestinians seek the removal of all settlements from land on which they are seeking to establish an independent Palestinian state.
There are about 250,000 settlers in the West Bank and Gaza - 400,000 including east Jerusalem.
Previously the US has publicly opposed all settlement construction, in line with the roadmap. According to the New York Times, the Bush administration will now tacitly support building within the boundaries of existing settlements, while continuing to oppose construction in undeveloped areas. Reuters news agency said the White House has denied any official change in its policy. The US withheld judgement on Mr Sharon's approval of the new homes last week, saying it was "studying the details" of the plan.