Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak reiterated Tuesday that he favored a gradual peace agreement with the Palestinians if the stalled attempts to reach a final accord fail.
"If it is impossible to reach a final accord, then we must seek another path and we will work for a gradual final accord which could be considered as an interim long term agreement," Barak told army radio on Tuesday.
"If the Palestinians are not ready to take decisions and make difficult concessions on some issues which should be dealt with in the final accord, then there will not be a final accord," he said.
Barak proposed the idea during a meeting of his Labor Party on Monday, but the Palestinian Authority swiftly rejected the proposal.
"The time for interim agreements is passed (and) we will not agree to sign a new one. We must reach a final agreement as soon as possible with international guarantees," Nabil Abu Rudeina, a close aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told AFP late Monday.
According to autonomy agreements reached in 1993 and 1994, the Palestinian territories were granted limited self-rule for a five-year interim period ahead of a final peace agreement.
But negotiations for this final agreement, which would include the thorniest issues such as the future of the Arab sector of east Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, borders and the future of the Palestinian entity have not produced results.
Afarat has frequently rejected the idea of new interim accords and insists on a final agreement setting up a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem, which was annexed by Israel in 1967, as its capital.
The peace process came to a halt in late September after violence broke out when hawkish opposition leader Ariel Sharon visited a disputed holy site in east Jerusalem, triggering a Palestinian uprising that has claimed some 290 lives, most of them Palestinians, in two months -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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