Militants extend truce

CAIRO, MARCH 17. Palestinian factions meeting in Cairo agreed on Thursday to continue an open-ended truce with Israel as long as certain conditions are met, a participant said. ``The truce will continue but it requires Israel to stop aggression against Palestinians and to release all the Palestinian detainees,'' Sakhar Habash, a member of the Fatah central committee.

He said all of the participants had agreed on the truce.

Delegates from the 13 factions had debated on Wednesday whether to declare an open-ended period of ``calm'' or one of three months.

Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the factions had agreed on ``an open-ended calm.''

``The behaviour of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon's Government will determine if it is possible for this calmness to be long lasting or short,'' he said.

Egypt is hosting the conference in an attempt to boost the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' attempts to win a cease-fire announcement. Mr. Abbas and Mr. Sharon declared a cease-fire at the February 8. Mr. Abbas was in Cairo on Wednesday trying to persuade the militant groups to formally join the truce. — AP

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