Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas say they are willing to meet.

In an interview with Newsweek Magazine published Sunday, Mr. Sharon said he will meet Mr. Abbas when Palestinian leaders are ready. In a separate Newsweek interview, Mr. Abbas said he would be willing to meet the Israeli leader after the January ninth Palestinian presidential election.

Mr. Sharon also said he will work with the Palestinians to coordinate Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas said Palestinians are rebuilding their security forces ahead of the Gaza withdrawal, which is slated for next year.

Mr. Abbas is backed by the powerful Fatah political faction and is viewed as a front-runner for the Palestinian presidency.