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Israeli, Palestinian Officials Discuss Economy

By VOA News
02 September 2009

Israeli and Palestinian officials Wednesday held their highest-level talks since Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took office in March.

Palestinian Economy Minister Bassem Khoury and Israeli Vice Prime Minister Silvan Shalom met in Jerusalem to discuss economic issues. The meeting signals a possible warming in relations.

Later Wednesday in New York, the U.S. envoy for Middle East peace, George Mitchell, is expected to meet with Israeli officials to discuss Mideast peace negotiations that have been stalled since December.

Mitchell met with Mr. Netanyahu in London late last month. Mr. Netanyahu agreed with Mitchell that both Israelis and Palestinians need to take practical steps to advance peace.

The Palestinians have said they will not rejoin peace talks until Israeli settlement building stops. Washington has demanded that Israel freeze construction in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Also Wednesday, Israel released nine jailed Hamas lawmakers following their completion of 40-month prison terms.

The men were among 30 Palestinian Parliament members, from the militant group Hamas, that were arrested in 2006 after Hamas militants captured an Israeli soldier. About 20 other lawmakers remain incarcerated.

In other news, a group of ultra-Orthodox Jews attacked a Palestinian taxi driver during a violent protest in a Jerusalem neighborhood early Wednesday morning.

Police say the man was lightly wounded in the assault. Officials say they are investigating the incident.

Protests in the area began several weeks ago over a decision by city councilmen to open a parking lot on the Jewish sabbath (the day of rest that last from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset).

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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