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New Israeli FM Challenges Palestinian Peace Conditions

Israel's new foreign minister has criticized past Middle East peace efforts, saying that making concessions to the Palestinians will only result in more war.

Avigdor Lieberman stirred Palestinian concern Wednesday when he said Israel is not bound by a 2007 U.S.-brokered pact on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but rather that it would abide by a 2003 "road map."

Both plans call for the creation of a Palestinian state.

The 2007 Annapolis agreement aimed to revive the road map, which also calls for an end to violence and for Israel to freeze all settlement activity.

Lieberman made his comments after Benjamin Netanyahu began his second term as Israel's prime minister.

U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated Mr. Netanyahu by telephone Wednesday. He said he looked forward to working with Israel on Arab-Israeli peace, as well as on Iran.

President Obama last week reaffirmed U.S. support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon raised the issue in a statement welcoming the formation of Israel's new government Wednesday. He urged Israel to work toward the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

In Qatar, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to put pressure on Israel, saying Mr. Netanyahu "does not believe in peace."

The Israeli-Palestinian situation is complicated by divisions between Mr. Abbas' Fatah party and the Palestinian group Hamas.

Representatives from the rival groups resumed reconciliation talks in Cairo Wednesday to try to work out a power-sharing agreement. Previous talks have ended without success.

In other news, the head of the United Nations agency that helps Palestinian refugees in the Gaza Strip has warned the agency will fire employees found to be affiliated with Fatah or Hamas. In a letter to some 10,000 staff, UNRWA, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, said employees must not be affiliated with any political parties in the conduct of their work.

Ging's warning comes after the rival Palestinian factions claimed victories in the U.N. agency's union elections.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.