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Abbas: Efforts to Form Unity Palestinian Government Continue


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says efforts to form a unity Palestinian government will continue, saying he is determined to put an end to Palestinian factional fighting. Mr. Abbas made his comments just days before he is to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Mr. Abbas spoke in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where he told a large crowd he still supports calling early elections to resolve the dispute between his Fatah organization and Hamas, but he is willing to give unity-government talks another chance to succeed.

Hamas and Fatah have been feuding over the composition of a unity government that could circumvent international sanctions placed on the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority because of its refusal to recognize Israel.

Mr. Abbas also said Palestinians would never accept the idea of a temporary Palestinian state based on the borders currently outlined by Israel's 700-kilometer separation barrier, which is currently under construction.

The Palestinian president also says Palestinians will not concede one centimeter of territory in East Jerusalem, and will not compromise on the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

Meanwhile, the Israeli newspaper Ma'ariv reports U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will propose the creation of a temporary Palestinian state during her visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories in the next few days. U.S. officials have not commented on the report.

Israeli officials say they oppose any change to the current Roadmap Peace Plan - a three-phase internationally-backed plan designed to end in the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace with Israel.

"It is my understanding that the entire community that deals with the Middle East peace process understands clearly that it is important that we move forward in accordance with the road map," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israel's foreign ministry. "The whole idea of jumping towards the end game is that we are not there yet. If you try and solve all the problems in one swoop I am afraid you are condemning both sides to the current status quo."

Mark Regev says the current status quo of a stalled Middle East peace process is the result of intransigence on the part of Hamas militants who control the Palestinian Authority.

Speaking Wednesday in Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said his group will consider recognizing Israel once a Palestinian state is established. But Hamas leaders in Gaza say the group does not recognize Israel and has not changed its policy calling for its destruction.

Israel's prime minister also dismissed Mashaal's statements, saying he would not even bother to read them.

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