The White House is hailing an upcoming Israeli-Palestinian summit in Egypt, calling it an encouraging step that shows both sides want to seize the opportunity for peace.

The U.S. comments Wednesday followed announcements that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will meet new Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah Tuesday in Sharm al-Sheikh.

The summit coincides with a visit to the region by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who is to meet separately with Mr. Sharon and Mr. Abbas the day before the February 8 summit.

In Cairo Wednesday, Egypt held talks with Palestinian militant leaders, as part of a push to strengthen support for the de facto Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire in effect for most of the past two weeks.

Sources said Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shallah both met with Egyptian negotiators.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.