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Palestinian-Israeli Summit Postponed


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert that was scheduled for Thursday in the occupied West Bank. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

The announcement that Mahmoud Abbas is putting off the planned summit was made by the Palestinian Foreign Minister, Ziad Abu Amr, who said Israel had not responded to a variety of Palestinian demands, including the release of funds to the Palestinian Authority, and the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

Israeli officials say the summit was postponed based on a request from Palestinian officials. The meeting was supposed to have taken place in the West Bank town of Jericho, the first ever talks between the two men to be held in Palestinian territory.

Saeb Erekat, a close aide to President Abbas, says a meeting will eventually take place but more needs to be done to prepare for it.

"Well, I believe the preferable thing is to hold it here as a bilateral. We want to have a successful meeting," said Erekat. "We are both focusing on the substance and not the time and venue, and we hope that as soon as we can conclude the preparations for the meeting we will hold it here."

Palestinian officials want Israel to release about $700 million in frozen tax and customs receipts that Israel has collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The money has been frozen by Israel since shortly after last year's Hamas victory in Palestinian legislative elections.

Israeli officials have expressed a willingness to release a portion of the money directly to President Abbas, bypassing the Hamas-controlled Palestinian unity government.

Palestinians also say Israel has not moved forward on plans to release Palestinian prisoners, and has refused to consider a truce in the West Bank, similar to one Israel and the Palestinians agreed to in the Gaza Strip last year.

Israeli officials say they will not release prisoners who could threaten Israelis, and will not consider a truce in the West Bank as long as Palestinians fire rockets at southern Israel from Gaza.

Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert last met on April 15, as part of a U.S.-mediated plan for the two men to hold bi-monthly meetings in a bid to revive Mideast peace efforts.