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THE MIDEAST IN BRIEF

Militants to halt attacks, Abbas says

GAZA STRIP

GAZA CITY -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday that militant groups promised to suspend attacks on Israel in the hope of ending a nearly two-month-long Israeli crackdown in the Gaza Strip. The militants denied there was a formal agreement with Abbas, but left the door open to a possible halt in attacks. Only minor violence was reported yesterday, and there appears to have been a drop in rocket attacks on Israel in recent days. Abbas said the groups reached their accord late Wednesday during renewed talks on forming a unity government including his Fatah Party and the rival Hamas group, which controls the Cabinet. (AP)

LEBANON

Relief streams into southern Lebanon
BEIRUT -- Humanitarian relief poured into southern Lebanon yesterday as aid agencies rushed to help the tens of thousands of people returning to rebuild villages torn apart by Israel's war with Hezbollah. The groups said that since fighting ended on Monday, the arrival of the Lebanese army in the south yesterday and repairs to bombed bridges over the Litani River were helping them reach the torrent of returning refugees. (Reuters)

BRITAIN

Prescott denies remarks on Bush
LONDON -- With Prime Minister Tony Blair on vacation, the man in charge of Britain's government found himself in a tempest over harsh language he allegedly used to describe President Bush's Middle East policies. Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott strongly denied assertions yesterday that he had privately told a group of lawmakers that the Bush administration had done a ``crap" job of promoting Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts. Prescott said in a statement that a description of the meeting by lawmaker Harry Cohen, first reported in The Independent newspaper, was inaccurate ``and it is not my view." (AP)

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