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'Significant Progress' Made in Israeli-Palestinian Security Talks


Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are said to have made "significant progress" in security talks Friday. Security responsibility for the Gaza Strip could be transferred to the Palestinian Authority in the next day or two.

Palestinian Minister of Security Mohammed Dahlan gave that assessment in an interview on the TV news channel Al-Jazeera.

Mr. Dahlan has been meeting with General Amos Gilad, the coordinator of Israeli military activities in the Palestinian territories. The talks took place at the home of U.S. Ambassador Dan Kurtzer.

Israel Radio quoted Palestinian sources as saying negotiators reached agreement on an Israeli withdrawal from the northern Gaza Strip as well an easing of travel restrictions on Palestinians.

One of the requirements outlined in the internationally backed peace plan known as the "road map" calls on Israel to withdraw to positions it held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.

Meanwhile, Palestinians say Israeli forces killed three militants during operations in the Gaza Strip. The violence has continued despite reports that Palestinian militant groups are about to announce a temporary halt on attacks against Israelis.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he expected an announcement Thursday by militant groups willing to suspend such attacks. But leaders of two of the groups - Hamas and Islamic Jihad - say they are still conducting internal discussions, and a cease-fire announcement likely will take several more days.

On Thursday, President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, called for Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups to be outlawed.

She spoke in London on her way here to discuss the so-called road map peace plan.

Ms Rice is to meet with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas Saturday night and with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Sunday.

This week President Bush publicly urged the Palestinian Authority to disarm Hamas rather than accept a temporary ceasefire. Ms. Rice is expected to stress this point when she meets with Prime Minister Abbas.

Ms. Rice has urged European countries to declare Hamas's political wing a terrorist organization, not just the military wing. She said, the notion that on the one hand, Hamas is peaceful, and on the other hand, is trying to blow up the peace process is just illogical and "will not work."

Ms. Rice said other radical groups like Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad and what she termed "all of the other rejectionists" should also be targeted.