UN chief Ban Ki-Moon was taken to a West Bank observation point by the Palestinian prime minister yesterday for a closer look at a large Israeli settlement and Israel's separation barrier.

Ban's visit came a day after he and other Middle East mediators again called on Israel to halt all settlement construction.

From their position on a West Bank Hill on the outskirts of Ramallah, Ban and Palestinian PM Salam Fayyad had a sweeping view of the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev, which has 11,000 residents. They also saw Israel's separation barrier, as well as Jewish neighbourhoods in Arab east Jerusalem.

Planned indirect talks between Israelis and Palestinians, to be mediated by US envoy George Mitchell, were put on hold after Israel announced plans to build 1,600 new houses in east Jerusalem. US secretary of state Hillary Clinton suggested on Friday that a way could be found to renew negotiations.

Fayyad said yesterday that it was important to show Ban the situation on the ground because the UN is "very imp­ortant in establishing the independent Palestinian state".

Nearly half a million Israelis live on war-won land, including 180,000 in east Jerusalem and 300,000 in the West Bank.