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Peace between Israel and the Palestinians never has been closer, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sunday. He and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met on the sidelines of a conference in Paris to form the 43-nation Union for the Mediterranean. At the same time, in Jerusalem, Israel's prison system said it will exchange five Hezbollah militants Wednesday for two soldiers captured in 2006. Both of the latter are believed to be dead, however.

Twenty-four people, most of them civilians, were killed Sunday in Kandahar, Afghanistan, when a terrorist aboard a motorbike rode up to a busy intersection and detonated a bomb. The attack was the second of its type in a week. Fifty-five others died last Monday when a bomber rammed the gates of India's Embassy in Kabul, the capital. The Taliban did not immediately claim responsibility for Sunday's incident but did say its militants executed two women Saturday night for allegedly working as prostitutes at a US military base.

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