Palestinian President Abbas Rejects Concept of State With Provisional Borders

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he has rejected the concept of a provisional Palestinian state out of concern that the temporary borders of such an entity would become permanent.

Abbas told Palestinian lawmakers that during last week's Mideast summit in Annapolis, Md., the idea of a provisional state was brought up, but he turned it down — although it is a key part of the internationally backed "road map" formula for creating a Palestinian state.

The border issue is but one of the many hurdles facing negotiators to the talks, which are set to begin Dec. 12.

The second step of the three-stage road map calls for "creating an independent Palestinian state with provisional borders and attributes of sovereignty." Creating temporary borders would allow the Palestinians to have independence, while giving the sides more time to work out contentious issues like the final status of disputed Jerusalem.

Abbas said that at the Annapolis summit presided over by President Bush, "There was talk about a state with provisional borders. We reject provisional borders, because these (borders) will be final."

In the meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas also rejected talks with the Islamic militant Hamas unless it relinquishes control of Gaza first. Hamas overran Gaza in June, expelling forces loyal to Abbas.

"There will be no dialogue until the movement backs down from its coup," he said. Because of the Hamas takeover, Abbas is in control of only the West Bank, though he insists he represents Gaza as well.

In their joint declaration, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Abbas agreed that the 2003 "road map" plan would be a basis for resuming peace negotiations.

Israel, which captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, wants to alter the area to retain major blocs of Jewish settlements. Palestinians claim all of the West Bank, insisting that a 1949 cease-fire line be the border, though some exchanges of territory are a possibility.

Israeli officials had no comment on Abbas' remarks.

Abbas told lawmakers the Palestinians would also not agree to a new demand that they recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Olmert made that demand shortly before the Annapolis summit.

Abbas said recognizing Israel as a Jewish state would "negate the rights of 1.5 million Palestinians who live there," referring to Israel's Arab minority, which makes up 20 percent of its population.

Palestinian officials also believe the Israeli demand is aimed at blocking Palestinian refugees who lost their homes during Israel's 1948 independence from returning to their former properties.

The Palestinians says refugees have a right to return to their homes. Israel rejects that, since a flood of an estimated 700,000 refugees and their 3 million descendants would eliminate the Jewish character of their state. Israel says the refugees must be resettled either in the Palestinian state to be created or in the nations where they live now.

With negotiations set to begin after a seven-year freeze, Abbas would be unlikely to offer concessions on the key issues at this point.

In another development, thousands marched in a funeral procession for Mohammed Khalil Salah, a Palestinian police officer killed in a raid by undercover Israeli soldiers a day earlier.

The local Palestinian police commander said Israel had expressed condolences over the death and that the two sides would set up a joint inquiry.

In violence Thursday, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian near the Gaza-Israel border fence. Israel said the man was "acting suspiciously" in an area where militants frequently plant bombs. Relatives said he was hunting birds.