The Bush administration says a plan Israel announced Sunday to build some 400 new homes in the Givat Ze'ev settlement does not help the progress of US-backed peace talks. Rice told reporters US policy on expansion of settlements in disputed areas is well-known, and it is important to keep the atmosphere positive. She made the comments after a meeting at the State Department with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Earlier, Rice's spokesman had called Sunday's announcement unhelpful. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack noted that Rice had spoken to Israel's defense minister twice in two days.