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Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas told visiting US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday that the Palestinians won't go to the Annapolis conference "at any price."
His comments came as senior PA officials said it was almost certain that the conference would be postponed because of the failure of Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to achieve progress on any of the fundamental issues, such as Jerusalem, the borders and refugees.
One official described Rice's current shuttle mission as a failure, saying she had failed to persuade Israel to change its "tough" position regarding Palestinian demands.
The Palestinians are demanding a comprehensive agreement with Israel on all the core issues before the conference, as well as an agreement on a fixed timetable for implementing the accord.
"I doubt if we will go the conference," said a top PA official. "The Americans and Israelis are not serious. We don't want to make fools out of ourselves."
"We can't waste more time," Abbas told reporters after meeting with Rice. "We can't go the conference at any price. This is unacceptable."
Abbas said he had complained to Rice about the lack of time the Israelis and Palestinians had to reach a deal ahead of the planned summit. "We must exploit every second from now and until the conference," he said. "The most important thing we are trying to reach is a clear and specific document that will help us resume negotiations [with Israel]."
Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh also sounded pessimistic about the conference. "The gap between the two parties remains very wide," he said. "The president made it clear to Rice that it was difficult to trust Israel and that Israel must halt its policy of assassinations, incursions, settlement construction."
Abu Rudaineh added that the Palestinian position called for clear agreement on core issues and a timetable for its implementation. "Unfortunately, Israel's refusal to commit itself to a timetable is hindering progress," he said. "Israel is not serious about reaching a deal or making the conference succeed."
Nabil Amr, a top Abbas adviser, also criticized Israel, saying its attitude toward the planned conference remained "negative and ambiguous."
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