Hamas slams door on talks with Abbas
Palestinian Authority vows to clamp down on violence
GAZA CITY (CNN) -- The militant Islamic group Hamas said Friday that it was ending talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas about a possible cease-fire with Israel.
"We are cutting off all dialogue with the Palestinian Authority," said senior Hamas leader Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, accusing it of trying to dictate the terms of Wednesday's peace summit in Aqaba, Jordan, to the group.
Hamas founder and spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said the dialogue has been halted because of the authority's "bad position" that ignored the status of Jerusalem and the issue of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the region.
Using Abbas' popular name, Yassin said "Abu Mazen gave the Jews what they did not deserve."
The call to cut off talks represents a reversal, because immediately after the Aqaba summit Hamas leaders said they were still willing to talk with the prime minister even as they rejected his call for an end to the armed intifada against Israel.
The Palestinian Authority said it had received no formal notification from Hamas that it is stopping talks and will not accept such a stance. The authority said it will continue to carry through with its pledge to clamp down on violence, no matter what its justification might be.
The Palestinian prime minister had predicted that he would reach a cease-fire agreement with all the militant Palestinian groups within three weeks.
Thousands of Hamas members marched in a rally Friday evening, vowing to continue the intifada, with some members calling Abbas a "spy." Earlier in the day, thousands took part in various rallies organized by Hamas throughout Gaza.
Hamas has called a Saturday night meeting of all militant Palestinian factions in Gaza to discuss how to deal with Abbas, Palestinian sources told CNN.
Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Its military wing has been responsible for many of the recent terror attacks against Israeli civilians as well as the Israeli military.
President Bush told other world leaders Friday that it is "important for Israel and the Palestinian Authority to focus on results," the White House said.
Bush made the statement when he discussed his recent trip to Europe and the Middle East in phone calls Friday to Prime Ministers Tony Blair of Britain and Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, the White House said in a written statement.
Those discussions came after the Hamas decision to stop cease-fire discussions with Abbas, the statement said. Bush discussed the prospects of Mideast peace and told Blair and Berlusconi that he was encouraged by his Red Sea summit, but said difficult challenges lie ahead.
In reaction to the Hamas announcement, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Mike Anton said, "There's now a real prospect for peace. All parties agree that terrorism needs to stop and that all parties must fight terror. Those who pursue terror have made clear that they are enemies of peace."
Two events Thursday evening contributed to the change in position, Palestinian sources said: a late-night meeting of Hamas members and the shooting deaths of two Hamas members by Israeli soldiers near the West Bank town of Tulkarem.
Israeli security sources said the men were planning a suicide bombing attack and refused to surrender to the soldiers, but Palestinian sources, citing eyewitness accounts, said the men did not resist.
Israel Defense Forces said the soldiers found three Kalashnikov rifles and a pistol inside the house after the gunbattle.
A senior Palestinian cabinet minister told CNN that the Israeli military action was the reason Hamas decided to stop the talks.
At the meeting in Jordan, Abbas, U.S. President George W. Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon showed support for the Middle East "road map," which sets out procedures that would lead to two states -- Israel and Palestine -- existing together in peace.
"I believe that Abu Mazen himself closed the door in front of Hamas because he committed himself in front of Bush and Sharon" to positions opposed by the Palestinians, al-Rantissi said.
A two-page Hamas leaflet passed out in Gaza on Friday urged Palestinians not to accept the dictates of the summits in Egypt and Jordan, especially Abbas' calls for an end to the intifada, the armed uprising that began in September 2000.
The leaflet said the United States was trying to impose its position on the Palestinians, and it called on Palestinians and the Arab world to oppose such dictates.
Wednesday in Aqaba, Abbas called for an end to terrorism, and Sharon pledged to remove "unauthorized outposts" from the West Bank and Gaza and do what it takes for the establishment of "a viable Palestinian state."
An Israeli diplomat said Thursday that Israel would begin dismantling the outposts in a few days.
Speaking on CNN's "Q&A," the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Danny Ayalon, said: "We are taking concrete steps. [Israel] is going to dismantle them all. It's going to do it in a phased-out manner."
He added that the larger question of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza that have been authorized by the Israeli government "is a political issue, which will be dealt with according to agreements and understandings" in a final-status agreement.
U.S. groups back road map
Meanwhile, two U.S. groups -- one Jewish and the other Arab -- have begun a joint campaign to back the Middle East peace plan.
Americans for Peace Now and the Arab American Institute will provide speakers to discuss the road map, co-write newspaper opinion articles and share "talking points" that focus on "the benefits of the initiative."
James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute, said the work reflects a "common consensus of Arab-Americans and Jewish-Americans for a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."
Some of the talking points include the casualties both sides have suffered, the poor economic situations in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and public support on both sides for peace moves.
-- Correspondents Jerrold Kessel and Kelly Wallace, and producer Talal Abu Rahma, contributed to this report.