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Israeli Ministers Approve List of Palestinian Prisoners to be Freed


A committee of Israeli Cabinet ministers has Tuesday approved a list of 250 Palestinian prisoners to be released this week as a gesture in support of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Officials said the list will now be posted on a Web site to give Israelis 48 hours to challenge the releases in court. But the men are expected to be freed on Friday.

Authorities say about 85 percent of those to be released belong to Mr. Abbas's Fatah party.

In an address in Washington Monday, President Bush proposed an international conference on reviving the Middle East peace process to include Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and some Arab states.

Mr. Bush said Palestinians face a choice between the path of moderate President Mahmoud Abbas or the path of extremist militant group Hamas. He said siding with Hamas would crush the possibility of a Palestinian state.

In phone calls to leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt, the president urged them to continue to support President Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Mr. Bush also pledged to increase aid to Mr. Abbas's government based in the West Bank, and called on Israel to remove unauthorized Jewish outposts in Palestinian territory and to end settlement expansion.

The United States and Israel are seeking to bolster Mr. Abbas and his government following Hamas's violent take-over of the Gaza Strip last month.

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

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