Syria, Libya pressure Palestine to quit talks with Israel

SIRTE: Syria and Libya today teamed up to pressure the Palestinian leader to quit peace talks with Israel and return to violence, delegates to an Arab leadership summit said.

An adviser to the US-backed Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, quickly rejected the suggestion, calling for the 22 nations represented at the gathering in Sirte, Libya, to be "realistic." Despite the opposition from two of Israel's longtime foes, the summit was today expected to renew backing for Palestinian peace talks with Israel. Still, the calls to abandon the effort reflected the depth of frustration and anger over the stalled process and continued Israeli construction in areas claimed by the Palestinians, particularly east Jerusalem.

Syrian President Bashar Assad urged Abbas to withdraw from a US-supported peace strategy and resume armed resistance to Israel, according to two delegates who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

They said Assad also urged Arab countries to halt any contacts with Israel, though only Egypt and Jordan have peace deals with the Jewish state.

"The price of resistance is not higher than the price of peace," one delegate quoted Assad as telling Abbas.

Summit host Moammar Gadhafi of Libya warned that his nation will withdraw support for an initiative launched at a 2002 Arab League summit in Beirut calling for exchanging land for peace with Israel, the delegates said.

Senior Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh dismissed the pressure.

"Let us be realistic. We will not follow those who have special agendas," he told Al-Jazeera television.

"We are ready for any Arab option. If they want to go to war let them declare that and mobilize their armies and their people and we will follow suit," Abu Rdeneh said.

Earlier this month, Arab nations opened the door for Abbas to enter four months of indirect, American-brokered peace talks with Israel. But they later threatened to withdraw support for the negotiations after Israel announced plans for new Jewish homes in east Jerusalem, the part of the city Palestinians claim as the capital of a future state.