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Rice
Photo: AFP
Abbas threatens to resign if no deal made by '09
Palestinian president tells Israel's Beilin he will consider stepping down if negotiations towards peace agreement fail. Meanwhile US Secretary of State Rice says Israel, PA leaders to intensify talks, urges understanding for closed-door nature of talks while sides tackle core issues. 'They're not going to talk in front of the cameras… If they did the negotiations would be dead on that day,' says Rice

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday threatened to resign if he does not reach a peace settlement with Israel within six months, Israeli MK Yossi Beilin said.

 

Abbas made the threat during a meeting Sunday with Beilin in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik.

A statement issued by Beilin's

office quoted Abbas as saying he ""Would see no point in continuing in his position" if a deal is not reached.

 

"I didn't take the presidency upon myself in order to serve the role of president but rather to pursue a mission, and I have no point in continuing in this capacity if it becomes apparent that we can't reach peace," the statement quoted Abbas as saying. He warned that failure to reach a peace deal "Would be a tremendous victory to the extremist groups in the region."

 

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Abbas remains committed to the peace talks, but will consider his options if a deal isn't reached by the end of the year. "Abu Mazen has told us his options are open," Erekat said. He would not say resignation is an option.

 

Before leaving Egypt, Abbas reporters that he had expressed his anger to Bush over the latter's speech at the Knesset last week.

 

"In principle, the Bush speech at the Knesset angered us, and we were not happy with it. This is our position and we have a lot of remarks (about the speech) and I frankly, clearly and transparently asked him that the American position should be balanced," Abbas said.

 

Rice: Talks to intensify

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are privately discussing a peace agreement and the talks should intensify in the next several months, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Sunday.

 

"I do know how seriously they are discussing all of the key issues," Rice told reporters aboard Air Force One as she returned from a Middle East trip with President George W. Bush. "I think you're going to see them intensifying those discussions over the next several months."

 

There have been few obvious signs of progress toward a peace deal six months into negotiations sponsored by the US and prominent Arab figures voiced their outrage at Bush's unusually warm rhetoric towards Israel during his visit last week.

 

Rice said negotiations were continuing behind closed doors.

 

"I can tell you for certain that there is more going on in private but that's the way people actually negotiate," Rice said.

 

"They're not going to talk in front of the cameras about what it is they're doing and if they did, the negotiations would be dead on that day," she said.

 

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