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May 27, 2003

Abbas pulls out of 'road map' meeting

With the possibility that Bush might meet with both sides, this move may be construed as an insult
The Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, has pulled out of Israeli-Palestinian talks on the US-driven "road map" announced earlier today by his Israeli counterpart, Ariel Sharon. Mr Abbas cited "scheduling difficulties", but the cancellation of the meeting, which was to be held tomorrow, was interpreted as an indication that the Palestinian leader does not see any value in meeting Mr Sharon.

"As far as Mr Abbas is concerned, Sharon does not deliver anything," the Guardian's Middle East correspondent, Chris McGreal, told Guardian Unlimited. "The Palestinians think Sharon uses them for propaganda, then all he does is harangue them about terror."

The talks would have been the second meeting between the two men in a fortnight. Their announcement followed remarks yesterday by Mr Sharon referring to the "occupation" of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the first time he had used the word. [more]