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Middle East Truce Approved

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Abbas New Leader of Palestinians
The Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

February 8, 2005

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestine Authority, and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon have agreed to a truce, both sides reported after a one-day peace summit in the Egyptian port town of Sharm-el-Sheik.

Abbas pledged an end to Palestinian hostilities against Israelis; Sharon made a similar pledge in regard to Palestinians. Both sides hoped that the truce would hold, although it was quickly denounced by the Palestinian military group Hamas, whose spokesman said the truce didn't apply to them. Sharon faces significant opposition at home as well, with his drive toward peace at risk of alienating his own political party.

The two men met face-to-face and shook hands, however, flanked by representatives from Jordan and Egypt. Israel agreed also to pull back troops from five cities in the West Bank, including Jericho and Bethlehem. Palestinian rights to settlement continue to be a point of contention, especially since many israelis already occupy the land claimed by Palestinians.

Abbas, as prime minister, negotiated a similar truce in 2003. That agreement lasted two months before violence began again. Leaders on both sides hope that the current agreement is the start of something more lasting.

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