Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says he believes next month's international peace conference in the United States will set the stage for direct Israeli peace talks with the Palestinians.
The prime minister said Sunday direct negotiations would be based on the international "roadmap" for peace and would be aimed at establishing a state of Palestine alongside Israel. The roadmap calls for Palestinians to dismantle armed militant groups and for Israel to halt all settlement activities in the West Bank.
Mr. Olmert said Israel needs to step up contacts with Palestinian moderates, and described Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as a peace partner.
Meanwhile, Israel said Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip fired a Katyusha rocket into southern Israel on Sunday. No damage or casualties were reported.