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Palestinian, Israeli PMs to Discuss Fate of Prisoners


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners. Palestinian officials say that Mr. Abbas is demanding the immediate release of about 450 prisoners, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Mahmoud Abbas are scheduled to meet Sunday to discuss the release of Palestinian prisoners.

Palestinian officials say that Mr. Abbas is demanding the immediate release of about 450 prisoners, some of whom have been held for more than 20 years.

Mr. Sharon is reported to be ready to set free about 400, including up to 60 who are members of Islamic groups dedicated to Israel's destruction. Israeli officials say only those prisoners who have not been involved in murder will be considered for release.

Palestinian officials claim that Israel is holding some 8,000 prisoners while Israel says the number is closer to 6,000.

The Palestinian Authority insists that the release of prisoners is vital for maintaining a three week old truce by Palestinian groups.

The meeting between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon is the first in a series of diplomatic exchanges the Palestinian Prime Minister has scheduled for this week. Following Sunday's talks, the Palestinian leader is expected to travel to Jordan and Egypt to discuss ways to move the peace process forward.

On Friday, Mr. Abbas is due to hold talks in Washington with President George W. Bush. The talks will represent the highest level meeting with a Palestinian official at the White House since Mr. Bush took office.

A few days later, Mr. Bush is scheduled to hold a separate meeting with Mr. Sharon. The meetings are expected to focus on the international "road-map" to peace plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005. Mr. Sharon is reported to be ready to set free about 400, including up to 60 who are members of Islamic groups dedicated to Israel's destruction. Israeli officials say only those prisoners who have not been involved in murder will be considered for release.

Palestinian officials claim that Israel is holding some 8,000 prisoners while Israel says the number is closer to 6,000.

The Palestinian Authority insists that the release of prisoners is vital for maintaining a three week old truce by Palestinian groups.

The meeting between Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon is the first in a series of diplomatic exchanges the Palestinian Prime Minister has scheduled for this week. Following Sunday's talks, the Palestinian leader is expected to travel to Jordan and Egypt to discuss ways to move the peace process forward.

On Friday, Mr. Abbas is due to hold talks in Washington with President George W. Bush. The talks will represent the highest level meeting with a Palestinian official at the White House since Mr. Bush took office.

A few days later, Mr. Bush is scheduled to hold a separate meeting with Mr. Sharon. The meetings are expected to focus on the international "road-map" to peace plan, which calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

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