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Abbas Freezes Talks With Hamas on Forming Unity Government


Palestinian officials say President Mahmoud Abbas has frozen talks with the ruling Hamas party on forming a national unity government.

Mr. Abbas' aides say he suspended the talks because of recent statements by Hamas leaders in which they refused to accept interim peace deals with Israel.

Palestinian Prime Minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Saturday that a unity government under his leadership would not necessarily recognize Israel's right to exist.

Meanwhile, Palestinian officials say Mr. Abbas will meet President Bush and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni this week to discuss reviving the stalled peace process.

The officials say the meetings will take place at the U.N. General Assembly in New York.

Mr. Abbas is expected to talk with Mr. Bush Wednesday.

Mr. Abbas and Mr. Haniyeh had reached a provisional agreement last Monday on the platform of a unity government. The platform was to include a document written by Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

Mr. Haniyeh says the prisoners' document does not call for recognizing past agreements between the Palestinian Authority and Israel.

In another development, Israeli security officials say they are making progress in talks to secure the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Palestinian militants. But the officials say a release could still take weeks.

The soldier's father, Noam Shalit, said Sunday he has not yet received any indications that his son is alive.

Mr. Haniyeh said Saturday there was "a lot of movement" in talks with Egyptian mediators for Shalit's release. Militants holding the soldier are demanding that Israel free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for his release.

Separately, Palestinian militants in Gaza fired several Qassam rockets into Israel Sunday, wounding one person and causing some damage in the town of Sderot.

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

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