March 17, 2008 - 6:41pm

Occupied Jerusalem: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held undisclosed peace talks after a deadly Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip led to their brief suspension and are to meet again on Monday, Israeli officials said.

Despite growing tensions over colony expansion on occupied land, Israeli Prime Ehud Olmert said the construction would continue in occupied Jerusalem and in colony blocs the Jewish state wants to keep as part of any deal with the Palestinians.

"There will be places where there will be construction, or additions to construction, because these places will remain in Israel's hands in any future constellation - and this includes, first and foremost, [occupied] Jerusalem, and everyone knows this," Olmert told a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The peace talks, led by Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and former Palestinian prime minister Ahmad Qurei, have shown little sign of progress since they were launched at a peace conference in Annapolis, Maryland in November.

"There will be a meeting today between the foreign minister ... who heads the negotiating team in order to continue the negotiations with the Palestinian side led by Abu Ala [Qorei]," Olmert said. "We have not stopped, we are not stopping and we will not give up."

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Livni and Qurei met secretly about 10 days ago but that session was not publicly disclosed.

Syria: Terms for restart

Israeli Prime Ehud Olmert said yesterday that he is prepared to restart peace talks with Syria if it ends its support for Lebanon's Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters, Olmert's office said.

Speaking at a joint meeting of the Israeli and German Cabinet ushering in Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations, Olmert said talks with Damascus, stalled for eight years, could resume if Syria cuts itself off from 'the axis of terror,' an official in his office said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


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