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Palestinian talks to be held by telephone

http://www.jewishworldreview.com | (UPI) The Palestinian delegation that Israel banned from traveling to London plans to participate in Palestinian reform talks by telephone, a government official announced Saturday.

The Palestinian information minister told Al Ayyam daily that the British government would hold the meeting on Tuesday with representatives of the "Quartet" -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations -- as well as Arab countries.

The conference, a British initiative, would discuss reforms in the Palestinian Authority's legislative, security and other systems.

The Israeli government decided to block the Palestinian delegation's attendance following the twin suicide bombing attacks carried out in Tel Aviv on Sunday. Twenty-four were killed, including the two bombers, and more than 100 wounded. Most of the victims were foreign workers.

Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the Palestine Liberation Organization's ambassador in London, Afif Safya, would attend the meeting in person.

The idea for the teleconference reportedly came from British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw via Abed Rabbo. From their conversation also came a promise to hold another meeting after the Israeli elections, according to news reports. Israelis are scheduled to elect a new government on Jan. 28.

"The British government decided not to surrender to the Israeli decision and its Prime Minister Ariel Sharon," Abed Rabbo said, adding that the Israeli government "is trying to block any change for getting the peace process back on track."

He criticized the United States administration "for not exerting enough efforts to pressure Israel to let the Palestinian delegation leave for London," adding that Israel "is fully responsible for disturbing the meeting."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority on Saturday called for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to exercise self-control and not to respond to what it called Israeli provocation and military operations.

"In this particular and sensitive time, the date for holding the elections in Israel, we call upon our people for self-control, patience and not to respond to any of the Israeli provocation and escalations," said the statement. The Israeli government "is using all possible means to use this delicate regional and international circumstance to continue implementing their political and military plans against our people."

Political analysts have said that attacks on Israelis would likely encourage support for Israel's hawks, among them the ruling Likud Party led by Sharon.

The Palestinian leadership reiterated its rejection of all violent action against civilians, saying they "are targeting Israeli or Palestinian civilians equally" and "have severely harmed our just cause."

"The International community and the Israeli public opinion, especially the Israeli peace camp, have been severely affected by those attacks carried out against civilians," said the statement.

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