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Mahmoud Abbas said the Palestinians will not attend next month’s U.S.-sponsored peace conference “at any price.” The Palestinian Authority president made the comment to reporters after meeting Wednesday with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the West Bank city of Ramallah. His comments came as senior P.A. officials said it was almost certain the conference in Annapolis, Md., would be postponed because Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have failed to achieve progress on any of the fundamental issues such as Jerusalem, the borders and refugees. The Palestinians are demanding a comprehensive agreement with Israel on all the core issues before the conference, as well as an agreement on a timetable for implementing the agreement within a fixed period of time. “We can’t waste more time,” Abbas told reporters. “We can’t go to the conference at any price. This is unacceptable.” Abbas said he complained to Rice about the lack of time the Israelis and Palestinians had to reach a deal ahead of the planned conference.

Meanwhile, President Bush at a news conference in Washington expressed optimism about the prospects of the peace conference and said peace depends on the Palestinians having the prospect of statehood. He added: “In order for there to be lasting peace, the deal has to be good for the Palestinians as well as the Israelis.”

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