Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has made his first public appearance since rumors began circulating last week that the 80-year-old was rushed to a hospital with serious heart problems.

Abbas' office has dismissed the rumors as baseless, and on Wednesday he delivered a 40-minute televised speech to Christian leaders in biblical Bethlehem. Abbas' office had urged journalists to attend to ensure maximum coverage.

The rumors of ill health have drawn attention to the lack of a successor or a process for picking one. Abbas' aides alleged the source of the rumors was Mohammed Dahlan, a former top aide seen as one of several possible contenders to succeed Abbas.

In Wednesday's speech, Abbas dismissed Israeli concerns that his self-rule government might collapse.