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Palestinian, Israeli leaders announce cease-fire

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Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon agree to a cease-fire.

Condoleezza Rice pledges a U.S. security coordinator for Mideast.

Condoleezza Rice meets world leaders in Turkey.
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Mahmoud Abbas
Ariel Sharon

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon announced a cease-fire Tuesday, hailing it as a new opportunity for peace in the Middle East.

"We have agreed with Prime Minister Sharon to cease all violence against the Israelis and against the Palestinians, wherever they are," Abbas said after talks at their summit in Egypt.

Shortly after the announcement, the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas issued a statement saying it is not a party to the agreement. The cease-fire is the position of the Palestinian Authority only, the statement said.

Hamas' military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, has admitted responsibility for deadly attacks against Israeli civilians and the Israeli military. Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department.

The historic summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh -- hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah II --is the first upper-level meeting between Israeli and Palestinian leaders in more than four years.

Sharon said Israel will cease its military operations in all locations in return for Palestinians' ending violence against Israelis.

"We really hope this day will be the day that marks the relaunching of the process for a better future that will lead us towards mutual respect and peace in the Middle East," Sharon said.

"A new opportunity for peace is born," Abbas said.

Jordan and Egypt, meanwhile, announced their governments would reinstate ambassadors to Israel after a four-year withdrawal, embassy officials said.

Both countries maintain a peace agreement with the Jewish state, but withdrew their ambassadors after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensified in September 2000.

Sharm el-Sheikh was the site of a Palestinian-Israeli summit in October 2000.

About 100 people -- mostly Palestinians -- had died in three weeks of violence, and President Bill Clinton mediated marathon peace talks at the Egyptian resort.

That summit -- between Israel's Ehud Barak and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat -- yielded an unsigned "statement of intent" to end the violence. But clashes between Palestinians and Israelis in Gaza and the West Bank continued.

President Bush met with Arab leaders at the venue in June 2003 during a trip that also included a meeting in Jordan with Sharon and Abbas, then the Palestinian prime minister.

Tuesday's summit is the first time Sharon and Abbas have met since the Palestinian Authority president was elected to succeed Arafat, who succumbed to an unknown illness in November.

After Abbas' election, Israel and the Palestinian Authority took confidence-building steps regarding security, Palestinian prisoners and a proposed Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

Abbas has deployed security forces within the Palestinian territories to prevent terrorist attacks, and Israeli officials have approved the release of some Palestinian prisoners.

Last week, an Israeli Cabinet committee approved an end to targeted killings of suspected Palestinian militants and a military withdrawal from five West Bank cities, sources in Sharon's office said.

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- after talks with Sharon and Abbas -- announced the two leaders have agreed to meet separately with President Bush in the spring.

"This is the most promising moment for progress between Palestinians and Israelis in recent years," Rice said.

Rice also said U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Ward will act as a security coordinator and will visit the region in the next few weeks. Ward also will work on Mideast security issues with Egypt and Jordan, she said.

Ward's responsibilities will include helping the Palestinians train and equip their security forces. Among his duties, Rice said, would be monitoring compliance with Israeli and Palestinian security agreements.

Bush 'impressed'

During his weekly Cabinet meeting on Monday, Bush said he looked forward to meeting with Sharon and the Palestinian leader. "I've been impressed by Prime Minister Abbas' commitment to fighting off terror," Bush said.

"I've also been impressed by the fact that Israel helped the Palestinians have an election, went out of their way to make sure that people were allowed to go to the polls."

A senior State Department official said future international meetings linked to the Mideast peace process are being discussed. Sponsors of the so-called Mideast road map -- the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union -- may gather soon, the senior State Department official said.

The road map calls for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, followed by a "final and comprehensive" settlement of the conflict and the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Bush has asked Congress to provide the Palestinian Authority with $350 million in U.S. funds to help rebuild infrastructure damaged or destroyed in the Palestinian territories after four years of Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In addition, another $40 million will be "reprogrammed" from money already authorized for a desalination plant and used for immediate assistance in similar infrastructure programs, Rice said.

CNN's Ben Wedeman, Guy Raz and Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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