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Sarkozy to tell Israel, Palestinians that peace within reach

Israeli military gets its first woman general
Jerusalem (AFP) May 26, 2011 - The Israeli army is to have its first woman general, the military announced on Thursday.

"Colonel Orna Barbiva will be promoted to the rank of general to head the army's personnel department," it said in a statement.

"Following the recommendation of the chief of staff, General Benny Gantz, her nomination has been approved by Defence Minister Ehud Barak," it added.

Barbiva is 49 and currently one of three women colonels in the Israeli army which has 21 generals in all.

The mother of three has a social sciences degree and a masters in management.

Military service in Israel is compulsory: three years for men and 22 months for women.

The army has 180,000 men and women -- conscripts and career soldiers -- and can rapidly mobilise up to 450,000 reservists.

by Staff Writers
Deauville, France (AFP) May 26, 2011
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe is to go to the Middle East next week to tell Israel and the Palestinians that peace is now "within reach", President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday.

Alain Juppe will bring a message that "peace has waited too long," Sarkozy told journalists at the G8 summit in the French resort of Deauville, adding that the current Middle East stalemate was untenable.

"The parameters for peace are perfectly well known and more time passing does not favour men of peace, it favours terrorists and extremists," he said, hailing the "good news" of a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas.

The bitter Palestinian rivals earlier this month announced a long-anticipated deal to create a government of national unity and prepare elections in the Palestinian territories.

Juppe will ask the Palestinians if the new government will call into question recognition of Israel and its right to live in peace and security, Sarkozy said, and will urge Israel to relaunch stalled peace talks.

"The situation today is untenable," Sarkozy said, adding that he had "great harmony" with the position of US President Barack Obama.

In a key policy speech last week, Obama said the territorial lines in place before the 1967 Six Day War, combined with land swaps, should be the basis for talks on a peace deal with the Palestinians.

The idea was hailed by Palestinians but rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told the Palestinians to tear up the pact as Hamas, which Israel considers a terrorist group, "is not a partner for peace."

Sarkozy said it was contradictory for Israel to reject talks with the Palestinians.

"There's a contradiction in saying for years that peace is not possible because the Palestinians are divided and now that they're trying to come together to say we won't talk to them because of the rapprochement," he said.

Peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010, when they ground to a halt over ongoing Israeli settlement construction on occupied Palestinian land.

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