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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 March 2008, 15:53 GMT
Abbas calls for calm before talks
A resident of Sderot inspects the damage done to his home by rockets launched form Gaza (4 March 2008)
Israel has warned of fresh action to prevent rocket fire from Gaza

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas says peace talks with Israel can only resume when calm has been restored between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Abbas broke off negotiations on Sunday during an Israeli offensive that killed more than 120 Palestinians.

Israeli forces briefly re-entered Gaza on Tuesday, clashing with Palestinian militants and leaving two dead.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, at the end of a visit to the region, has called for negotiations to resume.

She also said a tri-lateral group monitoring implementation of the international peace plan, known as the roadmap, would hold its first meeting next week.

Contact

Mr Abbas told reporters on Wednesday that Palestinian-Israeli negotiations must be resumed "but after reaching calm".

However, in comments that apparently contradict this statement, Ms Rice told a news conference later that the Palestinian leader has said that a period of calm was "not a condition for the resumption of the talks".

"I've been informed by the parties that they intend to resume the negotiations and that they are in contact with one another as to how to bring this about," Ms Rice said after meeting her Israeli counterpart, Tzipi Livni.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Certainly the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations must be resumed, but after reaching calm
Mahmoud Abbas

More than 120 Palestinians have died in the violence over the past week, including a senior militant and a baby girl on Tuesday, Palestinian officials said.

Two Israeli soldiers and an Israeli civilian have also been killed.

Israel says its actions are aimed at stopping rocket attacks by Hamas militants, and that operations will continue as long as it is the rocket fire continues.

Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, has rejected calls for a ceasefire and blames Israel for the violence.

"We are in a state of self-defence. When the siege and all forms of aggression come to a stop then we will see," its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said on Tuesday.






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