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The Prime Minister's Office refused to comment on yesterday's New York Times report that the Bush administration has changed its stance on Israeli construction in the West Bank, and now supports building in existing settlements, although not in undeveloped areas.

The PMO said only, "The issue is under discussion between us and the Americans."

The paper reported yesterday that Washington has altered its stance to lend political support to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at a time of political turmoil.

In September, a team of American experts will arrive in Israel to attend talks now being held between U.S. Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer and the defense minister's adviser Baruch Spiegel on the freezing of settlements and the evacuation of outposts. Talks are to determine the lines beyond which construction will be prohibited.

Constance Mayer, a senior Middle East analyst in the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, who formerly served in the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem, will head the team.

The team will also include aerial photography experts who will help set construction boundaries in the settlements.

Prime Minister Sharon's adviser Dov Weisglass will leave for Washington in the first week of September to meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice to discuss the separation fence ahead of the expected UN debate on the fence.

Planning of the fence is to be completed within a few days, with the portion between Elkana, in the northern West Bank, and Jerusalem to be moved closer to the Green Line, mainly to ease access for Palestinians farmers to their lands.