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U.N. envoy urges Israel to bolster Abbas

The United Nations urged Israel to do more to shore up Palestinian support for Mahmoud Abbas.

U.N. envoy Michael Williams said during a Jerusalem visit Wednesday that Abbas, whose mandate has been effectively limited to the West Bank since rival Hamas Islamists seized control of the Gaza Strip in June, needs to show Palestinians he can secure diplomatic concessions from Israel.

“I’m concerned that we haven’t seen further steps,” Williams told reporters. He suggested that Israel ease travel restrictions in the West Bank and remove illegal settler outposts, both measures Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s government has previously pledged to carry out.

Williams welcomed Israel’s recent release of around 250 Palestinians prisoners, most of them from Abbas’s Fatah faction, but urged a more sweeping amnesty.

With the Bush administration planning to convene a large-scale conference on Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking in the fall, there has been widespread speculation that Abbas and Olmert could announce the beginning of negotiations on a final accord. But Williams said  it was too early to know if this would indeed be the case.

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