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Egypt, Palestinians Hold Truce Talks (AP) By NADIA ABOU EL-MAGD CAIRO, EGYPT 02/02/05 6:39 AM)Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A56385-2005Feb2.html AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS AP} ASSOCIATED PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
CAIRO, Egypt - Egypt is holding talks with the leaders of the Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad on a possible cease-fire with Israel, one of the leaders and a spokesman for the other said Wednesday.

The talks will undoubtedly prepare the ground for next week´s planned summit in Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, to which President Hosni Mubarak has invited Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, according to the Israeli government.

Islamic Jihad´s leader Ramadan Shallah met Egypt´s chief of intelligence, Omar Suleiman, in Cairo on Tuesday, said Jihad spokesman Nafez Azzam.

"There is no agreement yet on truce" with Israel, said Azzam in a phone interview from the Gaza Strip. But the talks are "taking place in a positive atmosphere."

Egypt´s Suleiman flew to Israel and held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Wednesday.

Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told The Associated Press he is in Cairo and expects to meet Suleiman on Wednesday evening after his return from Israel.

Neither Egypt´s Foreign Ministry nor its Cabinet spokesman would confirm the talks, with the Foreign Ministry saying the matter was for the intelligence department. However, pro-government newspapers in Cairo reported Wednesday that such meetings were taking place.

Mashaal has said Hamas would accept a temporary truce on condition that the Israelis halt their targeted killings of Palestinian militants and release all Palestinian prisoners.

On Wednesday, Mashaal said "the ball is in the Israeli court," meaning that his group holds it is for Israel to demonstrate whether a cease-fire will be applied.

Israel has resisted pledging to halt attacks on Palestinian militants but its officials have said they will "respond to quiet with quiet."

Egypt has stepped up efforts to broker a truce between the Palestinian militants and Israel since the November death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Egypt sees a truce as a means to revive the "road map" plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace. It also wants to ensure calm in the Gaza Strip after Israel carries out its planned military withdrawal (Copyright 2005 Associated Press. 02/02/05)

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