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Israeli Prime Minister Discusses Prisoner Exchange

            The New York Times reported Tuesday that Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu said an official agreement has not yet been made with Palestinian militant group Hamas to release an Israeli soldier in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

            "There is still no deal, and I do not know if there will be one," Netanyahu said.

            The Israeli soldier in question is Staff Sgt. Gilad Shalit.  Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups captured Shalit during a border assault in June 2006.

            Many Israelis have mixed feelings about the potential deal.  There is a decisive public consensus to have Shalit set free, but the mass release of convicted suicide bombers may be too high a price.

            The potential release of Palestinian militant leaders Marwan Barghouti, a prominent Fatah leader, and Ahmad Saadat, a leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, complicates the deal further.

            If the exchange is to occur, Netanyahu said, "We will not be sparing with public discussion.  We will not do it as a fait accompli.  We will allow the cabinet ministers and the public in general to discuss the issue."

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