Rice Urges Expansion of Fragile Israeli-Palestinian Cease-fire

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told Rice he has hit a “dead end” with the ruling Hamas Islamists, whose control of the Palestinian Authority has dimmed hopes for peacemaking because of their strict anti-Israel stance.

But Hamas denied that talks aimed at forming a coalition government were in trouble, according to the Associated Press.

Rice who met with Abbas in Jericho and later with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem, called for extending a truce implemented in the Gaza Strip over the weekend. Olmert and Abbas support widening the cease-fire to the occupied West Bank, Reuters reported.

Olmert pledged this week to reach out for peace if Palestinians ended violence and met conditions set by the West and Israel.

Abbas has tried to get Hamas to form a unity government or get the group to recognize Israel, renounce violence and follow the terms of existing peace accords.

Talks between Abbas, of the Fatah Party, and Hamas have foundered over who will control weapons and money in a future Cabinet of independent administrators, who would be close to but not leading members of Hamas and Fatah, according to the AP.

“We have exerted efforts, we have worked in many directions, but unfortunately we have hit a dead end,” Abbas said Thursday.

But Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas denied the negotiations had ended, though his group also warned Abbas against trying to call new elections after the January ones that brought Hamas to power.