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Israel Sets Deadline for Palestinians to Join Peace Talks   


Israel says it will move ahead with unilateral plans to draw the country's final borders, if the Palestinians do not prove by the end of the year that they are willing to negotiate a peace deal.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he might wait up to six months to see if negotiations could make progress, before taking unilateral steps.

Israeli Justice Minister Haim Ramon told Israeli radio Wednesday that final borders could be set unilaterally as soon as 2008, if the Palestinians do not agree to join negotiations.

The new Hamas-led Palestinian government maintains that peace talks with Israel would be a waste of time.

For its part, Israel has refused to deal with the new Palestinian government, unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, Israel says it accepts a United Nations-backed plan to provide direct delivery of aid to the Palestinian people that bypasses the Hamas-led government.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the plan Tuesday in New York, after meeting with diplomats from the United States, Russia and the European Union.

Mr. Annan did not spell out details of the plan, but repeated demands that Hamas renounce violence and recognize Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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