The Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has expressed satisfaction with measures to reduce violence taken by the new Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

In a newspaper interview, Mr Sharon said he had a serious interest in advancing the peace process with Mr Abbas.

The new leader was elected earlier this month on a platform of ending the bloodshed between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the past week, the level of violence has dropped sharply in the Gaza Strip.

Today, voters in the territory have been taking part in municipal elections that are seen as a test of strength between Mr Abbas and the militant Hamas group.