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Abbas speaks to Olmert about reviving peace moves

By Staff
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, May 5 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas today spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert about reviving peace talks, a senior Abbas aide said.

Saeb Erekat said Abbas and Olmert would also meet when the Israeli leader returned from a trip to the United States. But an official in Olmert's office denied any meeting had been planned, although he said the two spoke by telephone earlier today.

Erekat said Abbas called Olmert to congratulate the Israeli leader after his new government was sworn in the day before.

''He (Abbas) spoke to him about peace partnerships and advancing peace moves,'' Erekat told Reuters.

Olmert is scheduled to visit Washington later this month, Israeli officials have said.

Abbas has said he is ready to resume negotiations with Israel immediately and that he proposed opening ''a back channel of talks'' to US officials and Shimon Peres, a former Israeli prime minister who has spearheaded peace efforts in the past.

But the shock Palestinian election victory of the Islamic militant group Hamas in January has appeared to torpedo any hopes of resuming negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The United States and the European Union have told Hamas it must recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace accords. Israel has said it would have no dealings with Hamas until the group accepted those demands.

Hamas says talks with Israel would be a waste of time. The group has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000, but has largely abided by a year-old ceasefire.

REUTERS OM BD1446

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