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Palestinian PM pessimistic ahead of Israel vote

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said on Saturday he did not expect the winner of next week's Israeli election to offer a "reasonable solution" to the Middle East conflict.

world Updated: Feb 07, 2009 20:34 IST

Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad said on Saturday he did not expect the winner of next week's Israeli election to offer a "reasonable solution" to the Middle East conflict.

"I do not know of a single Israeli politician from any party who I would expect to offer a reasonable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," Fayyad told reporters in his headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"All of them want a partial solution, or they aim to improve the face and the conditions of the occupation while the settlements continue," he added.

Israel is set to hold general elections on Tuesday that polls predict will return the right-wing Likud party led by Benjamin Netanyahu to power.

Netanyahu has said he will work to improve economic conditions in the occupied territories but will not immediately push for a solution to the decades-old conflict.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas had been holding US-backed peace talks with outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert since November 2007 but the negotiations have made little if any visible progress.

"Lots of Israelis talk about the necessity of establishing a Palestinian state, but the problem is in the details," said Fayyad, a former World Bank economist appointed by Abbas in the wake of the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in 2007.

"Whatever kind of state the Israelis talk about is a state of cantons in the West Bank or a deepening of the division between the West Bank and Gaza."

The latest round of peace talks had been hindered by Israel's continuing expansion of settlements in the West Bank and by violence in and around Gaza, where the Hamas seized power in June 2007.