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Page last updated at 11:21 GMT, Friday, 12 September 2008 12:21 UK

Abbas: Mid-East deal is far off

Mahmoud Abbas (left) and Ehud Olmert (31/08/08)
Mr Abbas said he will continue talking to whoever succeeds Mr Olmert

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said peace talks with Israel have failed to reach any breakthrough, despite nine months of negotiations.

"I can't say that even one issue has been agreed upon," Mr Abbas told Israel's Haaretz newspaper.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have met since talks resumed following a US-sponsored summit last November.

But Mr Abbas said the process would continue with whoever replaced Israel's outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Mr Olmert has said he will step down after his Kadima party chooses a new leader next week.

Mr Abbas told Haaretz he thought "very highly" of Mr Olmert. He added: "We will negotiate with any prime minister elected in Israel and wish Olmert well."

'Gaps remain'

All sides have expressed hope that a peace deal could be reached by the end of the year, but Mr Abbas said this was now improbable.

"I doubt we will be able to seal an agreement by the end of 2008," he said.

"The gap between the sides is very large."

Core issues up for discussion are the status of Jerusalem, the borders of a Palestinian state, settlements in the West Bank, refugees, security and water resources.

"We presented our ideas and demands regarding the six issues," Mr Abbas said, "but have not received any answer from the Israeli sides."

The Palestinian Authority leader said any deal must address all so-called final status issues.

"Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed," he said.

There has been little visible progress since the talks resumed, but a spokesman for Mr Olmert said "important work has been done".

"Gaps in some areas have been narrowed, but of course gaps remain," Mark Regev was quoted by the Associated Press news agency as saying.


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