Clinton appears to accept Abbas move to step down

WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to accept Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas's decision to step down in January at face value, saying Thursday she hoped to work with him in "any new capacity."
The chief US diplomat, who recalled talking to Abbas on Saturday during a Middle East tour that triggered Palestinian anger, said the United States has "tremendous respect" for Abbas and his leadership of the Palestinians.

Clinton appears to accept Abbas move to step down
Abbas "described in great detail the challenges" he faced and the pair "talked about his own political future," Clinton told reporters when asked for comment about Abbas's announcement he will not seek re-election next year.
"He reiterated his personal commitment to do whatever he can to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something that he's actually been working on since 1972," Clinton said.
"And I agree with him. I think it is the only way for the Palestinian people to fulfill their own aspirations for Israel to have the kind of security that it deserves," Clinton said.
"And I look forward to working with President Abbas in any new capacity in order to help achieve this goal," she said.
In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas said Thursday he will not seek re-election as he voiced frustration with the US position on Israeli settlements.
Palestinian officials had earlier said that Abbas's decision was motivated by his disappointment with US efforts to halt Israeli settlement construction, which he had said must happen before the resumption of peace talks.
Abbas's frustration was said to have peaked when Clinton praised an Israeli proposal for some settlement limits as "unprecedented" after months of Washington demanding a full freeze.
Clinton later clarified that President Barack Obama's administration still considers settlements "illegitimate" but also called on the two sides to resume negotiations even without the freeze demanded by the Palestinians.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said earlier Thursday that Abbas has been a "true partner" of the United States, and refused to be drawn on the implications of the decision for Obama's attempts to foster Middle East peace.
State Department officials also refused to say whether the move would undermine peace prospects and appeared to suggest that they would not urge Abbas to change his mind, but did not say so explicitly.
When asked whether Washington would like Abbas to stay on and whether that would boost peace prospects, Clinton's spokesman Ian Kelly said: "It's not up to us to say whether or not he should change his mind."

Thursday, November 5th 2009

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