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Britain's Brown to Host Mideast Leaders


British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will host talks with Palestinian and Israeli leaders later this month.

Speaking in London Wednesday, Mr. Brown said the talks will focus on how to make real progress on economic and political issues in the next year. Officials close to the prime minister said he would meet separately with the Palestinian and Israeli delegations.

Mideast peace talks launched last year by U.S. President George Bush have stalled as a fragile cease-fire between Palestinian and Israeli forces erodes and political upheaval on both sides creates uncertainty.

Tensions are still high in the West Bank Wednesday as Israeli security officials sent hundreds of riot police to Hebron, where the illegal occupation of a house by Jewish settlers has led to fighting.

Officials say soldiers will be replaced by the border police, who will help patrol parts of the city that were declared closed military zones today.

Police are prohibiting non-residents from entering Palestinian areas of Hebron and have set up road blocks and guards on the roof top of the contested house. Settlers have illegally occupied the house since last year.

Both Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and President Shimon Peres condemned Tuesday's attacks by settlers against security forces and Palestinians, insisting the house would be evacuated according to law.

Elsewhere in Israel, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem was seriously wounded in a stabbing attack he says was committed by a group of Jews.

Also Wednesday, Libya requested emergency U.N. Security Council consultations about an aid ship it sent to help the blockaded citizens of Gaza but was turned back by Israeli forces.

Israel has tightened its borders with the Palestinian territory in response to rocket fire from Gaza hitting Israel. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and relief groups have called on Israel to lift the blockade.

Israeli army radio reports that Palestinian militants have fired eight more mortar rounds today into Israel territory. The rounds landed in the western Negev desert. There were no reports of injuries

And police in Hamas-controlled Gaza today freed three Palestinian journalists accused of writing false stories about the Palestinian territory. The three work for groups with ties to Hamas rival Fatah.

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

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