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Abbas, Olmert to Meet in Egypt


Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are to hold talks in Egypt, early next week. As VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, Jordan's King Abdullah is also scheduled to attend the summit.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hosts the meeting, which will be the first meeting between Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas since President Abbas dismissed the Hamas-dominated Palestinian unity government, declared a state of emergency and formed a new temporary emergency government.

Nabil Aburdeneh, Mr. Abbas' spokesman, says Israel needs to take the meeting seriously.

Aburdeneh says the meeting will be an opportunity for the new Palestinian government to gain international support. He says Israel should start direct talks with Mr. Abbas about reviving peace talks.

Mr. Abbas has received support from the Arab League, the European Union and the United States. The United States and the EU have pledged to restore donor aid - suspended for more than a year because the former Hamas government refused to recognize Israel's right to exist.

Israeli officials have yet to restore hundreds of millions of dollars in customs and tax revenue they have collected on behalf of the Palestinians. Israeli Prime Minister Olmert says the Israeli cabinet will address the issue, shortly. Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev says the topic will be on the agenda when Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas meet.

"We are looking forward to engaging with this new Palestinian government and, of course, issues as well as the political dialogue," he said, "including the issue of transferring the tax money and the issue of a security cooperation - all that is back central to the agenda."

Aides to Mr. Abbas say they will also press the Israelis to dismantle numerous checkpoints in the occupied West Bank that cause daily hardship for Palestinians.

Meanwhile, the war of words between Mr. Abbas and Hamas Islamic militants continues. Wednesday, the Palestinian president accused Hamas of trying to assassinate him - a charge denied by a Hamas spokesman.

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