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Palestinian PM bans unlicensed weapons


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Analysts say the chance for peace is best it's been in years.

New Palestinian leader is under pressure from militants and Israel.
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei has banned the carrying of unlicensed weapons into areas controlled by Palestinian security, Cabinet member Saeb Erakat said Thursday.

The order, which Qorei signed Thursday, represents a significant move to control Palestinian militants, many of whom have refused to give up their guns in the past.

Reining in of militants by the Palestinian Authority has been a key Israeli demand before resumption of peace talks.

In addition, Israel has told Palestinian officials it is stopping targeted killings of senior members of Palestinian militant groups, Israeli sources said Wednesday.

Ending Israeli targeted killings has been a key demand by Palestinian militants in exchange for a cease-fire on Israeli targets.

The two developments come early in the administration of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who reportedly has reached a provisional agreement with the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Hamas has provisionally agreed to participate in a cease-fire.

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has acknowledged responsibility for terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians as well as attacks against the Israeli military. Israel and the U.S. State Department consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

The provisional agreement came after Abbas agreed to form a "supreme diplomatic authority" to replace the Palestine Liberation Organization as the body responsible for approving any diplomatic agreement with Israel, Ha'aretz reported.

This authority would include all Palestinian organizations, both in the territories and abroad. Groups such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are not part of the PLO. PLO leader Yasser Arafat -- who died in November -- had always rejected demands that he form such an umbrella group. Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel.

Erakat and Dov Weisglass, a top adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, met Wednesday and discussed an agenda for a proposed summit between Sharon and Abbas.

Erakat characterized Wednesday's meeting as being constructive and in-depth and said security and political issues also were discussed.

The meeting came after Sharon issued a directive to resume the contacts that were frozen two weeks ago in the wake of a terrorist attack at the Karni Crossing that killed six Israelis on January 13. (Full story)

Palestinian security forces in southern Gaza

Israeli and Palestinian officials said an agreement has been reached for a redeployment of Palestinian security forces in southern Gaza that will begin Thursday.

The decision came in a meeting between Maj. Gen. Moussa Arafat, Palestinian public security commander, and Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, Gaza area commander for the Israel Defense Forces. The two met Tuesday evening at the Erez Crossing.

Palestinian security forces have redeployed in northern Gaza in an attempt to stop attacks on Israelis.

Moussa Arafat said last week the coordination is necessary to prevent the Israeli military from mistaking the Palestinian security forces for terrorists and opening fire on them.


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