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Arab Leaders Propose New International Talks

Arab government ministers meeting in Cairo have proposed a new international peace conference to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.

The ministers said Sunday the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Israel and Arab delegations would be invited to attend the conference. They said the talks would be based on the principle of trading land for peace. The Palestinian foreign minister, Mahmoud Zahar of the ruling Hamas group has endorsed the proposal.

The Arab ministers also called for an end to the international aid boycott of the Palestinians imposed after the Islamic group won elections earlier this year.

In Jerusalem, Israel reacted cautiously to the peace conference proposal. Israel refuses to talk with Hamas because it does not recognize the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, news agencies in Israel and the Palestinian territories say Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed on a new prime minister.

The reports say the factions have agreed on Mohammed Shbeir, a biologist who was educated in the United States. Shbeir does not belong to either Fatah or the ruling Islamic group.

Hamas and Fatah have been negotiating for months on forming a national unity government that they hope will be able to end the aid boycott.

The United States and Israel say a unity government must renounce violence and recognize the Jewish state for aid to be restored.

The United States and Europe cut off nearly $1 billion in aid after Hamas won parliamentary elections earlier this year.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.