Palestinian President and US Secretary of State leaving for Jordan, Europe

Iran Materials 20 February 2007 13:52 (UTC +04:00)

(www.ap.org) вЂ" Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas planned talks in Jordan and Europe after failing to persuade Israel or the United States that his incoming unity government would fulfill conditions for restoration of vital foreign aid.

His first scheduled stop on Tuesday was Jordan, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also planned a visit to see Jordanian King Abdullah II before she would report on Monday's inconclusive Mideast peace summit at a gathering of world powers in Berlin, reports Trend.

Abbas also was headed to Germany along with stops in Britain and France in a campaign to convince skeptical Western leaders that the deal he forged with the ruling Islamic Hamas reflects his moderate stand.

At stake is about $1 billion in foreign aid cut off after the militant Hamas won an election and took power nearly a year ago. Israel, the U.S. and the European Union label Hamas a terror group.

Monday's summit in Jerusalem with Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert foundered on the issue of the terms of the government, to be made up of Hamas, Abbas' Fatah and carefully chosen independents.

The U.S. and European Union insist that any Palestinian government must recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords. Hamas has rejected those conditions. The unity accord, hammered out earlier this month in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, skirts those issues.

Monday's gathering was historic after a six-year lull in such U.S.-brokered sit-downs, but ended with no new agreements.

"I hope that the Arab states also understand that they have a role to play in this," Rice told reporters in Jerusalem. "This isn't just what the United States can talk about with the Israelis and the Palestinians. How about some of the ideas that were there in the Arab initiative? Why can't we get some of that going, too?"

Rice was referring to a dormant 2002 Arab peace proposal that would have offered wide Arab diplomatic recognition of Israel in exchange for Israel's retreat to the borders it occupied before the 1967 Arab war.

"I don't want others to stand on the sideline and say, you know, the United States needs to deliver the completion of the roadmap. Everybody's got obligations. And one thing that I'll be talking to the Arabs about is what can you to do make this happen."

The Jordanian king is one of the U.S. allies with public misgivings about the possibility of civil war among the Palestinians, as well as in Iraq. Jordan has taken in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Middle East conflicts.

Abdullah and other Sunni Arab allies have strongly urged the Bush administration to energize peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians, partly to improve the Palestinians' lot, partly to tamp down Islamic extremism that those government see as a threat and partly to counter the influence of Shiite Iran.

Monday's three-way meeting was planned before Abbas made his pact with Hamas. The gathering was meant to offer weary Palestinians a brighter vision for their future by opening a discussion of the contours of an eventual Palestinian state.

It also was a way to strengthen Abbas in his power struggle with Hamas, which surprised the Bush administration by defeating Abbas' secular Fatah Party in elections 13 months ago.

Olmert said he and Abbas agreed to maintain an open channel of communication, focused both on improving the lives of Palestinians and stopping terrorism.

Palestinians were dissatisfied. "What we have heard today has nothing to do with a partnership," said Mohammed Dahlan, an Abbas confidant.

He said the new government would be formed, despite the criticism. "There is no backing down," Dahlan said.

Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan called Monday's summit a failure.

"Rice did not succeed in pressuring President Abbas to withdraw from the unity government. We call on the U.S. administration to respect the Palestinian people's will and recognize the government and open a dialogue with the government," he said.

Abbas has said that the deal is the best one he could get from Hamas. The power-sharing deal is seen as crucial to halting internal Palestinian fighting that has killed more than 130 since May.

Both the United States and Israel have said they will continue to deal with Abbas, although it is unclear how much authority he will command in the new government.

Abbas and Olmert also discussed possibly extending a 3-month-old cease-fire covering the Gaza Strip to include the West Bank, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said.