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Peres hopeful about peace prospects
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Peres sees 'fair chance' for peace deal
President hopeful about peace agreement with Palestinian in next 12 months

President Shimon Peres said on Tuesday that he felt confident about the prospects for a Middle East peace deal next year following the election of Barack Obama as leader of the United States.

 

On the first full day of a three-day visit to Britain, Peres said there was a "fair chance" Israel would reach an agreement with the Palestinians in the next 12 months.

 

"I feel confident we're at the same camp, I don't see any contradiction," Peres said, when asked what he thought of Obama's views on the Middle East.

 

"There is no need to press Israel to go for peace, Israel is going to peace out of her own choice, out of her own will," he told BBC radio.

 

He added: "I think there is a fair chance to have an overall peace in the Middle East once we shall conclude our negotiations with the Palestinians.

 

"We made some headway, it has not yet concluded, but there is a chance that in the coming year we shall conclude the agreement."

 

'Hamas doesn't serve Palestinian cause'

While peace talks have made little headway in recent months, Israel's outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert agreed to free 250 Palestinian prisoners in a goodwill gesture after meeting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Monday.

 

Their talks however took place under the shadow of fresh violence in the Gaza Strip which is controlled by Hamas.

 

Asked whether the position of Hamas was a stumbling block to peace, he said the movement was "not a problem in their own right" but part of an overall struggle between Iran and more moderate Arabs.

 

"Hamas does not serve the Palestinian cause, it serves in my judgment the anti-Palestinian cause because it prevents the Palestinians building a state of their own," Peres added.

 

Peres, a former prime minister whose current position is largely ceremonial, also spoke about Obama's pledge to hold "tough" negotiations with Iran, stressing: "There must be a purpose to the talks".

 

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