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UPDATED: 09:09, July 02, 2006
EU president calls on Israel to free Palestinian officials
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Israel should release detained Palestinian officials and the Palestinian side should free immediately an Israeli soldier, said Finnish Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen on Saturday, whose country has just assumed the European Union (EU)'s rotating presidency.

In an interview with Germany's Die Welt newspaper, Vanhanen urged the Palestinian militants to immediately release the Israeli solider captured during a predawn attack on an Israeli outpost near Gaza border on Sunday.

Israel retaliated by sending troops into the Gaza region, launching airstrikes and arresting Palestinian officials.

Vanhanen said Israel must halt its military operations, free the Palestinian ministers and members of parliament and stop destroying civilian infrastructure in the Palestinian territories.

He stressed that negotiation is the only way to solve the problem.

Finland took over from Austria the rotating presidency of the 25-member EU on Saturday.

Source: Xinhua

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