Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has rejected the idea of Israel keeping its large West Bank settlements in any final Middle East peace deal. Speaking in Gaza City on Sunday, Mr. Abbas said "any talk about settlements other than stopping them is unacceptable." His comment came after US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice indicated that Washington still supports Israeli plans to retain the Jewish settlement blocks.
Ms. Rice told Israeli radio that while the United States -- in her words -- "will not prejudice the outcome of final status negotiations... existing major Israeli population centers will have to be taken into account." Meanwhile, Israel has put off plans to transfer a third West Bank town to Palestinian security control. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz ordered the delay today, saying Palestinians have failed to move against militants in two towns relinquished earlier.