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Abbas to Coordinate Pullout with Israel

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday that he will coordinate with Israel next week an anticipated Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip and part of the West Bank.

"We are ready for all types of coordination and we will begin meetings with Israel on this issue sometime next week," Abbas told reporters.

Abbas said the talks "will tackle every single issue, including how to handle houses in the settlements left behind by evacuated settlers."

Issues concerning the control of airport and the borderline between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, known as Philadelphi Route, will also be discussed, Abbas added.

Abbas stressed borders of the Gaza Strip "should be completely clear and defined after the pullout and the evacuation of settlements are completed."

"I hope that the pullout will be peacefully and smoothly implemented through cooperation between the two sides," he added.

Abbas said that he will meet with Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz soon, in addition to coordination between prime minister bureaus of the two sides.

As for a possible meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas said, "I am ready for any meeting anytime, and we are ready to arrange such a meeting."

Israel will withdraw forces and settlers from all 21 settlements in the Gaza Strip and four out of 120 in northern West Bank under the disengagement plan.

However, some reports said that Israel is mulling a postponement of the pullout plan, a process due to start on July 20.

Israel's Disengagement Administration head Yonaton Bassi proposed the pullout be delayed until after the traditional mourning over the destruction of two ancient Jewish temples in Jerusalem ends on Aug. 14.

If Bassi's proposal is accepted, the disengagement plan will begin on Aug. 15.

Israel said Tuesday that no final decision concerning the delay has been made.

(Xinhua News Agency April 20, 2005)

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