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Collins fuels rumours of a new beginning for Genesis

The suggestion that the progressive band Genesis may get back together has caused a wave of excitement among fans who have been praying for a reunion for the past seven years.

A brief comment made by Phil Collins, the former Genesis drummer, singer and songwriter, who suggested that the band may reform, has fuelled rumours that have been circulating in the music industry for months.

Shortly before going on stage in Tel Aviv this week Collins, who left the group in 1996 to pursue a solo career, said he would "be open to a reunion" of the band.

The 54-year-old performer, who is the most prominent international music star to perform in Israel since the start of a Palestinian uprising more than five years ago, gave hope to the band's legion of fans when he confirmed: "There's a possibility. I'm open for it."

For months there have been rumours that, behind the scenes, moves were being made to get the group, which formed in 1967 and enjoyed 30 years of hits before disbanding in 1998, back together again for at least one performance. "I'm happy to sit behind the drums and let Peter [Gabriel] be the singer. If [a reunion] happens, I'll be there. If it does not happen ... it would just be because there are too many things in the way," said Collins during his "First Final Farewell Tour" in Israel. He says he plans to stop touring "soon" in order to spend more time with his family.

Although no official plans for a reunion have been announced, Collins said he was still in touch with all of the former Genesis members.

"We're all still good friends. We spent like 30 or 25 years of our life in the same office," said Collins, who sought to quash any suggestion of animosity between members of the band.

"Just because we don't play in the same band any more doesn't mean we don't see each other and enjoy each other's company," added the performer, who has previously said that he would play in a band with Peter Gabriel "in a second" if he was asked.

Genesis was born out of the merger of two groups created by Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks along with Michael Rutherford and Anthony Phillips, who were all pupils at Charterhouse School near Godalming in Surrey, in 1965.

However, it was not until 1967, under the guidance of the producer Jonathan King, that they first recorded under the name Genesis.

Although Phil Collins did not join the band until 1970, he is their best known drummer, and took over as the lead singer when Peter Gabriel left the group for a solo career in 1975.

After a reshuffle of band members they finally called it quits in 1998.

However, in recent months Peter Gabriel and the guitarist Steve Hackett, who joined the group about the same time as Collins, have hinted at the possibility of a reunion.

"A reunion, I think, is on the cards at some point," said Hackett in an interview with an American magazine last month. "I just don't know exactly when it's going to happen. I haven't met the guys and discussed it , but I think the time is getting close."

On a talk show in the United States last month, Gabriel said that a meeting with former band members to discuss a joint project was due to take place in the near future.