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Israel reportedly has offered to admit 20,000 Palestinian refugees as part of a final peace accord.

As part of U.S.-sponsored negotiations revived last November, the Olmert government proposed that Israel absorb that number of refugees over a decade, Ha’aretz reported Thursday.

According to the newspaper, the refugees would be admitted on the basis of “humanitarian” criteria, such as whether they had relatives living in Israel.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office denied the report, saying Israel stands firm in its demand that all Palestinian refugees belong in a future Palestinian state rather than in the Jewish state.

The Palestinians want their refugees from the 1948 war — along with their descendants, they now number in the millions — to be allowed to exercise a “right of return” to lands in Israel. Successive Israeli governments have ruled out the request as a recipe for demographic suicide.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ office had no immediate comment on the Ha’aretz report.

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