/ 30 November 2006

Abbas: Unity talks with Hamas at ‘dead end’

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, after meeting United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a new push for Middle East peace, said on Thursday talks on a unity government with Hamas had reached a ”dead end”.

The US wants to strengthen Abbas, a moderate who has been caught in a power struggle with the Hamas Islamist group that took over the Palestinian government in March after winning parliamentary elections.

Rice praised Abbas’s efforts and said Washington wanted to ”intensity our efforts” to renew the peace process after a surprise ceasefire deal took hold in Gaza over the weekend. Rice will later meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

With Rice at his side, Abbas said: ”For eight or nine months, the Palestinian people have gone without salaries, but unfortunately we have not reached an agreement … Unfortunately we are at a dead end.”

Abbas said further discussion was needed before he decided what move to take next.

Palestinian officials said the options available to Abbas could include the dismissal of the Hamas-led government and the appointment of a new prime minister, moves that would signify a new hard-line against Hamas. Some fear it could lead to civil war. — Reuters