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Peres Holds Holds Secret Talks With Palestinian President

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has met secretly with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - Israel's first direct contact with Mr. Abbas since the militant group Hamas won elections in January.

Israeli officials said Monday acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert approved the meeting, held in Jordan on Sunday.

A Israeli government source said the meeting concentrated on establishing emergency humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, and noted Mr. Peres and Mr. Abbas did not discuss political issues.

Mr. Olmert had previously turned down a request by Mr. Peres to meet with the Palestinian president. Peres is a key ally of Mr. Olmert's in Israel's new Kadima Party.

Also Monday, Hamas officials met with Mr. Abbas' Fatah Party on forming a new Palestinian government. A Fatah spokesman said after an initial session in Gaza that Fatah is not likely to join a Hamas-led government.

In other news, Israeli troops arrested two Palestinian teenagers near Nablus who they say were planning a terror attack. And Israeli settlers clashed with Palestinians and Israeli peace activists near the southern West Bank city of Hebron. The peace activists were helping Palestinian farmers plant olive trees.

Israel has been on high alert as it begins to celebrate Purim, a holiday celebration featuring masquerades.

The United States and European Union have threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority once a Hamas-led government is formed. The U.S. and Europe say Hamas is a terrorist organization. They have called on Hamas to recognize Israel and renounce violence. Hamas says it will not change under pressure.

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