With talks between the Israelis and Palestinians apparently headed for a stalemate, French President Nicolas Sarkozy again attempted to wrest the initiative from the U.S. in the West Asia crisis, saying he would invite Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Paris for discussions before the end of October.

Mr. Sarkozy made his declaration during a joint press conference in Paris with Palestine President Mahmoud Abbas.

Mr. Abbas said he would announce his decision on the future of the talks after the meeting of the Arab League scheduled for October 4.

He also said he hoped the construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem would cease for a “further three-four months”.

The Palestinian leader hinted a three- or four-month freeze could satisfy him and that he would be taking “no quick decision” on whether to remain in the talks.

Mr. Sarkozy said he would telephone Mr. Netanyahu later on Monday. He said the Palestinian and Israeli leaders had accepted the participation of the Union for the Mediterranean (a grouping of countries around the Mediterranean ring including North Africa) in the peace process.

The two will come to Paris next month for the U.M. summit scheduled for November in Barcelona.

Mr. Sarkozy described Mr. Netayanhu's appeal to Israeli settlers to show restraint as “a step in the right direction even though it is clearly insufficient”.

He deplored the fact that unanimous appeals to prolong the moratorium on settlements had not been heard.

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