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Abbas: Palestinians Reject Temporary Borders
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday that he is opposed to a Palestinian statehood with mere temporary borders with Israel, a key part of the US-backed peace plan.

"We don't see the temporary borders as a realistic choice to rely on," Abbas stressed again at a joint news conference with Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"We want all international and regional sides to move constantly to end the conflict and its subsequent results," the Palestinian President continued, adding that the stalled Middle East peace process had been the focus of his talks with Rice.

Abbas, meanwhile, urged Israel to stop expanding its West Bank settlements, release prisoners and halt all military actions in the Palestinian territories thereby "giving a true chance for political process."

He also called for a suitable atmosphere under which meaningful peace talks could be held to end the Israeli occupation that started in 1967.

"This comes in accordance with the roadmap and the work to materialize President George W. Bush's vision of establishing an independent, viable and geographically-linked Palestinian statehood with Jerusalem as a capital and lives in peace alongside Israel," he added.

As for the Gaza ceasefire reached last year between Israel and the Palestinians, Abbas called on the Palestinians to maintain it while demanding the expansion of the truce deal to the West Bank.

Abbas and Rice discussed current efforts at forming a national unity government capable of seeing the US-led sanctions on the Hamas government lifted.

Abbas, who leads the Fatah movement, has warned that he would call early elections if a coalition government was still not agreed upon by the factions.

A local daily reported on Sunday that progress had been made between factions, mainly the governing Hamas and rival Fatah, on the unity government talks although still falling short of an agreement.

At the end of his speech, Abbas praised Egypt for its diplomatic mediation in securing a prisoner swap between Israel and the Palestinians which involves an Israeli soldier and the Palestinian prisoners jailed in Israel.

For her part, Rice affirmed that the United States would stick to the roadmap peace plan to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by a two-state solution, but did not address the idea of a provisional state.

"My work is going to be best targeted, I think, in next months on trying to accelerate progress on the roadmap, which after all would lead us then to a Palestinian state," Rice said.

She also reasserted the US support for the moderate President Abbas.

Ahead of the visit, the governing Hamas movement slammed Rice for her tour, stating her coming merely fuelled tensions. This came as Rice announced she would not meet any official from the Hamas-led government.

After the news conference, Rice left the West Bank and returned to Israel, to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

(Xinhua News Agency January 15, 2007)

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