Prodi rejects Abbas request for int'l force

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met Tuesday with Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi and renewed a request to deploy an international force in Gaza, but Prodi suggested in a joint news conference that the time was not ripe for such a deployment. Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil said his group would not accept such a contingent. "We would consider it an occupation force," Bardawil said. Prodi expressed his support for Abbas and said Italy was prepared to to funnel additional aid to the Palestinians. "This is the time to give Palestinians hope," Prodi said. "We don't think humanitarian support is enough," Prodi said. Abbas reiterated that he would only engage in dialogue with Hamas if the group reversed last month's violent takeover of Gaza and apologized to the Palestinian people. Hamas was unlikely to meet such demands.