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Israeli, Palestinian Leaders to Meet Amid Violence, Arrests


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas are meeting in Jerusalem to discuss coordination of the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, but their talks come amid an upsurge of violence in recent days and just hours after Israeli security forces arrested dozens of Palestinian militants in the West Bank.

At issue during the summit is how best to coordinate the removal of over 8,000 Israeli settlers from the Gaza Strip and small portions of the West Bank and do so without chaos and violence.

The Israelis want Mr. Abbas to take tougher action against Palestinian militants to ensure they do not disrupt the pull-out. But, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says even violence will not stop the disengagement.

Mr. Olmert told Israel radio if there is fire during the pull-out, the fire will be stopped, but not the disengagement.

President Abbas is likely to push Israel to further ease restrictions on Palestinians and to release more of the eight thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

However, PLO Executive Committee member, Yaser Abed Rabbo says Palestinians want to discuss other issues as well, including continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Mr. Abed Rabbo repeated long-held Palestinian suspicions, namely that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza is a ploy to expand its presence in and control over the West Bank. He said it's an issue that must be on the table.

Prime Minister Sharon and President Abbas meet amid an upsurge in violence as Palestinian militants stepped up attack in recent days. The meeting also comes hours after Israeli forces rounded up and detained over 50 Islamic Jihad militants in a West Bank raid.