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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders Meet Amid Violence


Ariel Sharon
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas met in Jerusalem to discuss coordination of the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. The talks were overshadowed by an upsurge of violence in recent days and a large security sweep by Israeli forces that led to the arrest of dozens of Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

President Abbas arrived at the prime minister's residence in Jerusalem for the talks. It was the first face-to-face meeting between the two men since February when they agreed to stop hostilities at their summit in Egypt.

But that truce has been fragile and punctuated by sporadic violence. Keeping the ceasefire from collapsing was seen as a major issue for discussion.

Topping the agenda was the overriding issue of the upcoming Israeli disengagement and how best to coordinate the removal of more than 8,000 settlers from the Gaza Strip and small portions of the West Bank without chaos and violence.

The Israelis want Mr. Abbas to take tougher action against Palestinian militants to ensure they do not disrupt the pullout.

President Abbas was expected to push Israel to further ease restrictions on Palestinians and to release more of the 8,000 Palestinian prisoners detained in Israeli jails.

The talks were overshadowed by an upsurge in violence as Palestinian militants stepped up attacks in recent days. The meeting also came hours after Israeli forces rounded up and detained more than 50 Islamic Jihad militants in a West Bank raid.