Palestinian PM says ready to meet Sharon


Palestinian Prime Minister Mr Ahmed Qurie said today he was willing to take up Israeli leader Mr Ariel Sharon's offer to meet for talks on reviving a stalled US-backed peace plan.

In fresh violence, a Palestinian motorcyclist died in hospital after being shot by Israeli soldiers at a roadblock near the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mr Qurie, trying to complete the formation of a government to replace an emergency cabinet whose 30-day term expires on Tuesday, said no date has been set for such a session.

Asked about the possibility he would hold talks with Mr Sharon, Mr Qurie told reporters: "We are not against (it)."

Mr Sharon said on Thursday he was ready to negotiate with Mr Qurie once the Palestinian prime minister -- locked in dispute with President Yasser Arafat over the composition of the cabinet and security powers -- consolidated his position.

Mr Sharon's offer appeared to signal a softening in Israel's position.