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Suicide strikes to cease, no ceasefire

Cairo/Jerusalem, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Palestinian factions today agreed to halt suicide attacks in Israel but rejected bids to offer Israel a comprehensive ceasefire required to revive deadlocked peace moves.

Palestinian militant group Hamas and four other factions rejected Egypt’s ceasefire proposal throwing four days of truce talks in Cairo into disarray.

“Our final response along with the four other factions is we are not ready to declare a new ceasefire,” Hamas official Mohammed Nazzal said in Cairo.

He said the group still stood by an agreement reached overnight for a conditional halt to attacks inside Israel.

Reacting to the Hamas rejection, Raanan Gissin, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said: “By scuttling a ceasefire they are undermining, or delaying the process in which the Palestinians can reach statehood”.

Israeli officials had earlier rejected any deal that did not include ending attacks on Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers on occupied land as a “halfway measure” that would not prevent Israel’s military from acting.

Palestinian officials said Egyptian mediator Omar Suleiman had told the 13 Palestinian factions that simply halting attacks inside Israel was insufficient and called for a full ceasefire.

Suleiman, Egypt’s intelligence chief, is due to meet US officials on Tuesday in Washington to convince the US to send monitors for any ceasefire.

Hamas, one of two groups which has led suicide attacks in Israel, said it and four other factions rejected the proposal. It said it would not give the Palestinian Authority authorisation to represent all Palestinians in talks with Israel.

Earlier today, Gissin told CNN: “There’s no halfway ceasefire” and that there had to be a “complete cessation of violence, of terrorism, of incitement” in order to move forward on the US-backed “road map” for peace.

Officials said Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie left Cairo today without a deal, which is a key step to helping arrange a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and to securing Israeli commitments on halting violence.

Palestinian cabinet member and negotiator Saeb Erekat said the director of Sharon’s bureau and Qurie’s top aide would meet to prepare for a summit between the two leaders.

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