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Deputies To Sharon, Abbas Meet For Talks

Associated Press
Sunday, January 30, 2005; Page A22

TEL AVIV, Jan. 29 -- A meeting between Israel's defense minister and a top Palestinian security official Saturday went well, Israeli officials said, as the two sides try to reconcile widely differing expectations for an upcoming summit between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Palestinian security official Mohammed Dahlan, a top adviser to Abbas, met late Saturday under tight security at a Tel Aviv hotel. The talks focused on security matters.

Israeli officials described a "good, positive atmosphere," and said the two men would meet again in the coming days. Dahlan left the hotel without speaking to reporters.

The talks were part of preparations for a summit between Abbas and Sharon expected in the second week of February. The summit would be a crucial step in the push to end four years of hostilities and revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Also Saturday, a political rally by Hamas in the Gaza refugee camp of Maghazi turned violent as supporters of the rival Fatah faction opened fire, sparking a melee that wounded more than 20 people. The rally was held to celebrate Hamas's victory in municipal elections in Gaza earlier this week.

The summit meeting would be the highest-level contact between Israel and the Palestinians since June 2003, when Sharon and Abbas -- then prime minister -- launched the "road map" peace plan.

There were more signs of a warming in relations on Saturday. Palestinians said they were close to a deal with militant factions to halt attacks on Israeli targets, while an Israeli official said the government would do everything in its power to encourage the current calming of tensions.

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