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Israeli and Palestinian leaders discuss peace deal

Israeli and Palestinian leaders discuss peace deal
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Israeli and Palestinian leaders have met in Jerusalem to try to finalise a peace deal. Israel’s Ehud Olmert is keen to seal an initial accord before stepping down from a premiership which has been plagued by scandal. His Kadima party votes on a new leader next month.

Overseeing the US-brokered talks were the woman many see as his likely successor, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, as well as former Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei.

Peace negotiators representing Israel and the West Bank’s moderate Palestinian leadership privately report progress in their efforts to outline the future borders of a Palestinian state.

But Washington’s hope of sealing a deal before President George Bush leaves office in January seems increasingly unlikely.

Of all the obstacles to peace, perhaps the biggest is Hamas’ takeover of the Gaza Strip 14 months ago. The moderate Palestinians who control only the West Bank say their future state must include both the West Bank and Gaza, two separate territories located on opposite sides of Israel.

On the question of Palestinian refugees, Washington proposes compensation and talks to decide how many could return to what is now Israel.

The thorny question of Jerusalem would be resolved as part of the borders debate but religious sites and the walled Old City where they are located would be discussed at a later stage.