Page last updated at 14:54 GMT, Wednesday, 7 May 2008 15:54 UK

Israel 'to compromise for peace'

Israeli soldiers at memorial ceremony (06/05/08)
Israel stopped to remember its fallen soldiers and civilians

Israel's prime minister has said the country is willing to compromise for peace, on the eve of its 60th anniversary by the Hebrew calendar.

Speaking in Jerusalem at a ceremony for Israel's fallen soldiers, Ehud Olmert also said Israel's survival depended on its willingness to defend itself.

Earlier, the country paused as sirens marked the annual Remembrance Day.

On Wednesday night, celebrations will be held across the country signalling the start of Independence Day.

Sombre day

In an address to dignitaries and bereaved families at Mount Herzl military cemetery, Mr Olmert spoke of Israel's grief at its losses, but added: "Peace and not war is our end and the thing we long for."

Israel's existence as a nation, he said, depended on its "willingness and ability" to defend itself, but that there was also a "willingness to compromise".

Moments earlier, the country ground to a halt as sirens wailed in memory of Israel's fallen soldiers and civilian victims of attacks by militants since the founding of the state in 1948.

Vehicles stopped in the roads, drivers stood by their cars and pedestrians froze in their tracks for the two minute silence.

The day is a sombre occasion in Israel, with mournful music played on radio stations and programmes about Israel's wars filling its television channels.

At the start of official remembrance ceremonies on Tuesday night, Israeli President Shimon Peres said Israel was prepared to pay the price for peace, but warned Israel's enemies it would also "pull the trigger in defence".

After the end of memorial day at sunset on Wednesday, huge celebrations are planned across the country to mark the start of Independence Day .

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, where the main events take place.

Israel was established as an independent state in 1948 on 15 May according to the Gregorian calendar, a day that Palestinians mark as al-Nakba day, or day of the catastrophe.

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