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Sharon ´pleased´ with moves by Palestinian leader to end violence (AFP-FRANCE PRESSE) JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 01/27/05 3:06 AM ET)Source: http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=1515&ncid=1515&e=5&u=/afp/20050127/wl_mideast_afp/mideastisraelpalestiniansharon_050127080627 AFP} Agence France Presse AFP} Agence France Presse Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM (AFP) - Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed satisfaction with measures taken by new Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas to reduce violence.

"There´s no doubt that Abu Mazen (Abbas) has begun to work," he told the Yediot Aharonot daily.

"I am very pleased with what I hear about what is going on the Palestinian side, and I very much want to work with him to make progress."

Abbas has impressed Sharon by his efforts to bring the four-year armed uprising to an end since his election on January 9.

As well as persuading the armed factions to observe a "cooling down" period, Abbas has also deployed thousands of security forces in the Gaza Strip in order to prevent rocket attacks by militants on Jewish settlements or across the border into Israel.

Abbas however is urging Israel to reciprocate any ceasefire by groups such as Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades by ending its military operations in the occupied territories and release prisoners in order

Sharon said he was keen to help Abbas but gave few other details.

"I intend to promote the chances of reaching an arrangement with the Palestinians," said the Israeli leader.

"I intend to accommodate Abu Mazen (Abbas) and at the same time to keep my eyes open and to examine the situation on their side."

Sharon´s top advisor Dov Weisglass met Wednesday with Palestinian negotiations minister Saeb Erakat to discuss the prospects of a summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

The meeting came after Sharon lifted a ban on political contacts with the Palestinian Authority which had been imposed after a suicide bombing on a Gaza checkpoint which killed six Israelis.

A Sharon-Abbas summit would be the first meeting between leaders on both sides in more than four years, as Sharon completeley boycotted Abbas´s late predecessor Yasser Arafat.

Abbas is expected to press strongly in any such summit for the release of Palestinian prisoners, 8,000 of whom are currently in Israeli jails.

In comments to reporters on Wednesday evening, Abbas stressed that the release of prisoners was of vital importance to building confidence between the two sides.

"We are waiting for the Israelis to release a large number of prisoners and we are asking them to discuss the names of those who should be released," he said.

"We would prefer that those who have spent a long time in jail and who have health problems and women are the first to be freed," he added. (Copyright © 2005 Agence France Presse. 01/27/05)

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