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ABBAS TALKS OF HOPES FOR PEACE

The Palestinian leader says he wants a deal with Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that he hopes to reach a full peace deal with Israel within a year, after Israel's prime minister floated the idea of starting with a joint declaration on the contours of a Palestinian state.

Abbas spoke to reporters after telling an Israeli newspaper that President Bush promised him he would push hard to conclude a Mideast agreement before he leaves the White House in January 2009.

In the Gaza Strip, three Israeli airstrikes killed five Palestinians, including the military leader of the Islamic Jihad there. Later, four Islamic Jihad members were wounded in a firefight with Hamas forces at the scene of one of the airstrikes, following a dispute over items in the targeted vehicle, witnesses said.

Also Thursday, Mohammed Dahlan, a leader of Abbas' vanquished forces in Gaza, said he would resign as national security adviser, citing health reasons. Dahlan was widely blamed for the surprising collapse of the pro-Abbas forces in five days of fighting that ended with Hamas' takeover of the coastal Gaza strip last month.

A committee of inquiry appointed by Abbas recommended Thursday that 60 members of the security forces face trial for their poor performance in Gaza, said an Abbas aide, Rafiq Husseini.

The Hamas takeover of Gaza has spurred a flurry of diplomatic activity, with the international community lining up behind Abbas and his West Bank-based government of moderates.

Bush is planning an international peace conference in the fall, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is arriving next week for more talks with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is settling in as the international Mideast envoy.

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