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Israel's Peres Urges New Parliament to Reach Peace

Israeli President Shimon Peres has urged the country's new parliament to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians by the end of its four-year term.

Mr. Peres addressed lawmakers Tuesday at the swearing-in of Israel's 18th parliament, known as the Knesset. He said peace with the Palestinians would lead to peace deals with all of Israel's neighbors.

The Israeli parliament is dominated by nationalist and religious parties that oppose sweeping territorial concessions to the Palestinians. The parties significantly increased their share of seats in the 120-member assembly in elections this month, winning 65 seats.

President Peres picked the leader of the main Likud nationalist party, Benjamin Netanyahu, to form the next Israeli government. Mr. Netanyahu says he favors a national unity coalition with centrist and center-left parties to tackle Israel's economic and security problems.

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell is due to visit Israel and the West Bank in the coming days as part of the Obama administration's pledge to work aggressively for peace in the region. He began his latest overseas mission Tuesday by meeting British officials in London.

Mitchell also will travel to Ankara, Abu Dhabi and Sharm el-Sheikh in a trip running through March 4. In Egypt, he will join U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for a donors conference on rebuilding the Gaza Strip after Israel's recent offensive.

The U.S. State Department says Washington will pledge several hundred million dollars to aid agencies involved in Gaza's reconstruction. It says none of the funds will be transferred to Hamas militants who run Gaza.

In another development, Israeli officials say they have no immediate plans to demolish 88 Palestinian homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood. Israeli authorities say the homes in the Silwan district were built without permits in an area designated for a public park.

Palestinians who live in the homes say Israeli personnel surveyed the area in recent days to prepare for demolitions. Palestinian activists say Israel wants to drive Palestinian residents out of the neighborhood, which is home to several Jewish families.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem after the 1967 Mideast war in a move not recognized internationally.

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