Israel sees progress in peace talks

Israeli and Palestinian teams set to address issues including trade and security.

    Livni will continue to be a chief negotiator in Israeli negotiations with the Palestinians [AFP]
    Saeb Erekat, Palestinian negotiator, did not comment on the teams except to say that "we [will] bring whatever experts are needed".
    Annapolis push

    The final-status peace talks, the first in seven years, were launched by Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian president and Fatah leader, in November in the US city of Annapolis.

    George Bush, the US president, has said that he wants a deal to be finalised between Israel and Palestinians by the time he leaves office next January, but talks have stalled in recent weeks.

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    Olmert says implementation of "basic principles" for a Palestinian state will only go ahead if Abbas can stop fighters in the occupied West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip from attacking Israel.

    Abbas, whose influence in the Gaza Strip is limited after Hamas fighters routed Fatah forces in June, wants a full agreement which will allow him to declare a Palestinian state.

    Israel has not yet ended settlement activity or dismantled Jewish outposts in the West Bank built without Israeli government authorisation.

    West Bank woes

    The purported progress in peace talks came as Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, addressing an economic conference in Saudi Arabia on Sunday, appealed for Arab support.

    He blamed Israel for the failure of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to show a strong presence in the West Bank.

    Protests have rocked the West Bank village of
    Kobar over al-Barghouthi's death [AFP]

    On the ground in the Fatah-controlled territory, about 3,000 Hamas supporters marched at the funeral of a Muslim preacher who died on Friday in the custody of PA interrogators, a week after he was arrested.

    They crowded the village of Kobar, carrying the body of Majed al-Barghouthi.

    Mourners waved the group's green flags as they carried al-Barghouthi's body, chanting in support of Hamas and its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, which is banned in the West Bank.

    They also condemned Tawfik Tirawi, the PA's intelligence chief, shouting: "Tirawi, you are a coward, you are the Americans' deputy."

    No comment

    Tirawi did not respond to requests for comment Sunday.

    Hamas officials have said they did not trust a government investigation announced by Abbas.

    Meanwhile, in Gaza, Hamas was planning a mass march on an Israeli crossing for Monday to protest against the blockade.

    Israel's military was reportedly preparing to prevent Palestinians from crashing through as they did last month on the Egypt-Gaza border crossing.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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