Rice to return to shore up cease-fire

Abbas aides informed that Rice is "keen" to resume regional peace talks.

rice and abbas 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
rice and abbas 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will return to the region soon for additional talks with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on ways of consolidating the current cease-fire with Israel and the ongoing crisis over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, PA officials here said Monday. They said senior US officials informed Abbas's office that Rice was keen on pursuing her efforts to maintain the cease-fire to pave the way for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians on the basis of the road map. Although no date had been set for the visit, the PA officials said it would most likely take place in the coming days or weeks. Abbas, who met with Rice in Jericho last week, has yet to decide what measures he will take, if any, following the failure of unity talks with Hamas. Sources close to Abbas on Monday continued to talk about the possibility of dismissing the Hamas-led government and calling early elections. Hamas remained as defiant as ever, warning that any move against the government would amount to a coup. Former PA minister and Fatah legislator Nabil Shaath said Abbas was considering either holding a national referendum on the unity government or calling early elections. "The talks over the formation of a unity government ended the day Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh left on an Arab and Islamic tour," he said. Abbas was seeking a government that would consist of representatives of all factions, he added. Fatah leaders who met here Monday expressed their full backing for any measures Abbas might take to resolve the crisis. However, some voiced disappointment with the way Abbas was handling the crisis with Hamas, saying they wanted to see deeds, not words. The Fatah leaders also urged Abbas to form a "salvation" government that would help resolve the financial crisis in the PA-controlled territories. "How many times can President Abbas threaten to fire the Hamas government?" asked one Fatah official. "His problem is that he's too hesitant. Hamas is no longer taking him seriously." PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas accused Abbas of "signing the death certificate" of the unity government talks by reneging on previous agreements with Hamas. "Abbas and his staff don't want Hamas in power at all," he told the Saudi newspaper Okath. "Abbas wants to control all the important ministries, such as Foreign Affairs, Interior, Finance and Information. He also rejected Hamas's candidates for the premiership. Even if we had given him 100 names, he would have rejected them too." PA Deputy Prime Minister Nasser Eddin Shaer warned Monday that the situation in the Palestinian arena was "very dangerous," and called on Abbas to resume unity talks with Hamas. "The Palestinian people want the national dialogue to continue because they want to see an end to the international sanctions," he said. "Prime Minister Haniyeh is ready to return home any time to resume the talks."