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PALESTINE - Oct 17 - Abbas Issues Warning Over Mideast Summit.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accuses Israel of hampering peace efforts and issued the warning that he will not attend a US-sponsored Middle East summit unless it yielded concrete results. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard the strong message after a second round of talks with Abbas, underscoring that despite her four days in the Middle East the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians are still large. "Time must not be lost because that's not in anyone's interest. We cannot go to the meeting at any cost. It is unacceptable to go there at any cost", Abbas told reporters after talks with Rice. "We want to reach a clear document that will help us to start negotiations under a definite timetable. We need a clear document and a deadline to reach a definitive result", Abbas added. Disagreement between Israel and the Palestinians on the content of the document, which negotiating teams are drawing up to serve as a basis for the looming conference has been seen as a possible cause for delaying the summit. The Palestinians want a detailed agreement and timeframe for implementing solutions to the thorniest issues in the conflict, while the Israelis want a more vague document with core issues left until later and no timetable. Abbas also said Israeli actions on the ground, such as recent orders to confiscate Arab land in villages outside Jerusalem were "getting in the way of efforts to reach a substantial document to submit at the meeting". Rice has been in the Middle East since Sunday in an effort to find agreement between Israel and the Palestinians on the outlines of a peace deal that the two sides will negotiate after the meeting in Annapolis, Maryland. Palestinian presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina accused Israel of not taking the meeting seriously enough and called on Washington to put pressure on the Jewish state to advance pre-conference talks. "Israel does not want a timetable or negotiations on a final status (of the Palestinian territories)", he said. "The credibility of the American administration depends on pressures it is ready to exert on Israel", Abu Rudeina said. Determined to galvanize the peace process after nearly seven years of deadlock, Rice returned to Jerusalem to meet the head of Israel's negotiating team, FM Tzipi Livni, and PM Ehud Olmert. On Oct 15, she dismissed suggestions the conference should be delayed, but mentioned December, as an alternative to the more frequently touted November, for the first time as a possible date for the meeting. Rice has said a two-state solution to one of the world's most intractable conflicts is essential. The latest US push to revive the peace process comes after nearly seven years of diplomatic deadlock following the collapse of the Camp David peace summit and violence between the two sides that has killed nearly 5,900 people. Meanwhile, an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian fighter were killed in gunbattles in the Gaza Strip yesterday after the Israeli military pushed into the southern part of the Hamas-run territory. Backed from the air, Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinian fighters from the Islamic Jihad and Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, in open areas to the east of Khan Younis, witnesses said. One soldier sustained critical wounds in the clashes and was flown by helicopter to hospital, where he was declared dead, an army spokesman said. Islamic Jihad, which has claimed nearly all anti-Israeli attacks in the last two years, said it killed the soldier in the Farahin area after firing a rocket-propelled grenade into a "Zionist vehicle". Israeli ground forces had earlier shot dead Hazem Asfur, 21, from the armed wing of Hamas, east of Khan Younis, Palestinian medics said. Twelve Palestinians, most of them fighters, were wounded in the incursion, nearly one kilometer inside the Gaza Strip, including four Jihad gunmen hurt in an Israeli airstrike on open ground, medics said. The Israeli Army said troops were operating against "terrorist threats and rocket-launching infrastructure" before they withdrew in the afternoon. An army spokeswoman confirmed an airstrike and said that ground forces identified hitting several fighters who struck an Israeli armored vehicle with an anti-tank rocket. Palestinian witnesses said 15 people were detained and agricultural land torn up by Israeli bulldozers. Israel has been struggling, with little success, to curb rocket attacks from Gaza, which the government last month branded a "hostile territory" after Hamas overran loyalists of Abbas in June.
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Title Annotation:Mahmoud Abbas
Publication:APS Diplomat Recorder
Date:Oct 20, 2007
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