PA will ask Rice to pressure Israel on restarting talks

Abbas will also ask Rice to intervene with Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to urge US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to exert pressure on Israel to abide by the road map plan during their meeting here Monday, PA officials said Sunday. Abbas will also ask Rice to intervene with Israel to reopen the Rafah border crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Rice is expected to hold talks with PA Finance Minister Salam Fayad, National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub and Interior Minister Nasser Youssef. PA officials said Abbas will express his readiness to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss ways of reviving the stalled peace process. In addition, Abbas will warn that Israel's ongoing crackdown on wanted terrorists in the West Bank threatens the unofficial truce declared by the major Palestinian factions earlier this year. On the eve of Rice's visit, Abbas issued a strong condemnation of Israel's policy of targeted killings. "This is harmful to the peace process and reflects negatively on the current period of calm," he said, referring to Saturday night's incident in Jenin where soldiers shot and killed a top Fatah operative. PA Spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said Abbas was expected to tell Rice that the Palestinians were losing faith in the road map. "Israel's unilateral measures constitute an obstacle to the implementation of the road map," he said. Another official told The Jerusalem Post that the PA was "disappointed" with the US because of its failure to exert pressure on Israel. "The ball is in the American court," he said. "We want to see deeds, not words. Unless Washington puts pressure on Sharon to return to the negotiating table, the situation will further deteriorate." Meanwhile, PA Civil Affairs Minister Muhammad Dahlan claimed on Sunday that conditions at the Karni border crossing in the Gaza Strip were worse than they were before the Israeli withdrawal from the area. "It's now clear that Israel is continuing to hinder the movement of goods at the border crossing," Dahlan said during a tour of the former settlements in the Gaza Strip with Quartet envoy James Wolfensohn. "Israel is trying to destroy the Palestinian economy." Dahlan called for resuming peace talks with Israel and expressed hope that Rice would use her influence during her visit to the region to break the logjam on a variety of fronts. "We hope she won't deal with minor issues," he said. "The Gaza Strip has been turned into a big prison because of the continued closure of all the border crossings, including the Palestinian airport." Wolfensohn also expressed his concern that the Gaza Strip would be turned into a "giant prison." He said that the next 72 hours were critical for the continuation of his mission as he is frustrated by the lack of change in the atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinians.