Israel makes checkpoints pledge

Defence ministry says 50 of the West Bank's 500 barriers will soon be removed.

    Condoleezza Rice was on her second visit to the
    region in less than a month [AFP]

    Israel says that the barriers and travel restrictions across the West Bank are needed to prevent attacks but the Palestinians say they are excessive and have devastated the economy.

    Travel restrictions

    On Sunday, Israel also agreed to ease travel restrictions for 1,500 Palestinians and increase work permits in a bid to rehabilitate the economy.

    In video


    Israel 'to remove' some roadblocks

    Fayyad welcomed the pledge, saying "we accept these measures as acts to improve the people's lives and to strengthen the ability to work and build our state".

    Speaking to reporters after the three-way meeting, Rice said the removal of the roadblocks would start "very, very soon."

    A statement from US officials said the Palestinians would deploy additional security forces in the West Bank town of Jenin and "work to prevent terror".

    Last week, Barak said he had agreed to let the Palestinians deploy about 600 Jordanian-trained officers in Jenin.

    Abbas meeting

    Rice, who was due to meet Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, late on Sunday, was on her second visit to the region in less than a month.

    She is expected to encourage the renewal of regular meetings between him and Ehud Olmert, Israei prime minister, which were suspended during an Israeli military in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip last month.

    Peace talks were revived at US-brokered talks in November with both leaders vowing to try to find agreement by the end of 2008.

    But negotiations have since made little visible progress, hampered by settlement activity in the West Bank and east Jerusalem as well as Israeli-Palestinian violence.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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