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Abbas-Sharon summit thrown into doubt
Updated: 2005-10-10 09:18

A much-anticipated summit between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders was suddenly thrown into doubt Sunday after Israel's defense minister rejected key Palestinian demands during a preparatory meeting meant to ensure the upcoming session's success.

Senior Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed to meet once more in hopes of salvaging the summit.

The summit, tentatively set for Tuesday, would be the first between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas since Israel completed its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last month.

Violence late Sunday marred the atmosphere. Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinians crawling along the Gaza border fence, the military and Palestinian officials said. The military said they were apparently trying to plant a bomb.

The unilateral pullout from Gaza raised hopes that peace talks might soon resume. Israeli and Palestinian officials say they want to produce concrete results at a summit, hoping success would lead to formal negotiations toward a peace treaty.

But the two sides are deadlocked over several Palestinian demands, including the handover of West Bank towns to Palestinian security control and demands for more weapons for the embattled Palestinian security services.

Sharon told his Cabinet Sunday that he did not know if the meeting would take place, stressing that he will not threaten Israel's security.

Abbas-Sharon summit thrown into doubt
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, flanked by his aides, talks to reporters outside his house in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Oct. 9, 2005. [AP]
"There are gestures that Israel can and will make, and there are gestures that it won't," he said, according to meeting participants.

Abbas has said one of his goals will be to persuade Israel to carry out pledges it has made already, including pulling its troops out of five West Bank towns.

Israel agreed to the pullback as part of a February cease-fire. But the process stalled after two towns, Jericho and Tulkarem, were handed over, with Israel accusing the Palestinians of failing to take action against militants in those towns. Israel later retook Tulkarem after a suicide bomber from the area attacked an Israeli city.

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