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Israeli-Palestinian Meeting  Overshadowed by Violence - 2003-05-17

The Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers concluded their first summit early Sunday on a new U.S. backed peace plan to end nearly three years of violence. The talks went ahead despite two separate attacks by Palestinian militants against Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Both sides have agreed to meet again next week.

The meeting between Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon and his new Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, at Mr. Sharon's office ended after three hours.

There was no immediate word of any progress from their discussions on the "road map to peace" plan that calls for the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005.

The "road map" is supported by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

Mr. Abbas went into the meeting seeking an Israeli commitment to implement the plan, while Mr. Sharon was seeking a pledge from the Palestinian leadership to halt violence and terrorism.

The talks represented the highest-level contacts between Israel and the Palestinians in more than two years.

The two leaders met just hours after a Palestinian suicide bomber killed an Israeli man and his pregnant wife, at a Jewish enclave in the divided West Bank city of Hebron.

The bomber was later identified as a member of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance movement, a group which frequently carries out suicide bombings and other terrorist attacks against Israelis.

During the meeting between Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas, two Palestinian gunmen also infiltrated the Jewish settlement of Sha'arei Tikva in the West Bank.

The two attackers were killed during a forty-minute exchange of gunfire with Israeli troops.

David Baker, an official in the office of Mr. Sharon, says the latest attacks are another reminder that the Palestinian leadership needs to take the matter of fighting terrorism seriously.