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Israel should arm Palestinian police: Peres

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Tel Aviv (dpa) - Israel is considering helping Palestinian police combat militant operations by equipping them with small arms, it was reported Friday.

Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israeli radio that the light arms "did not pose a threat to Israel", and that they were key to allowing the Palestinians enforce law and order.

The suggestion is one of a number of concessions that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will present to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas next week.

The two are due to meet Tuesday for the first time since both leaders agreed to a cease-fire during the February summit in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

Peres' comments follow an agreement Thursday on a package of measures aimed at assuaging the everyday lives of Palestinians.

They include an expansion of humanitarian aid to the Palestinians, the resumption of a number of bilateral initiatives suspended due to the Palestinian intifada and an easing of regulations at border crossings.

The increased cooperation also comes ahead of a weekend visit to Israel and the Palestinian Territories by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, currently on a tour of the region.

Rice will meet the Palestinian leadership in Saturday in Ramallah before meeting senior Israeli officials including Prime Miniser Ariel Sharon Sunday in Jerusalem.

Sharon is set to discuss with Rice the possibility of barring the Islamic militant Hamas movement from contesting Palestinian elections, the daily Haaretz reported. The elections, which were to have been held July 17, have been postponed indefinitely. dpa le ch sc

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