While the US and Israel has attempted to sideline the leader of the Palestinian people, Abbas said he could not work independently of Arafat.

He clarified his position during an interview after talks with US president George W Bush in Washington over the weekend in the latest efforts to implement the US-backed “road map”.

“He is leader of the Palestinian people,” said Abbas in reference to Arafat. “I cannot be independent.”

The Bush administration has sidelined the Palestinian President in the latest discussions aimed at ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Since US President George W Bush came to power in 2001 he has not invited Arafat to Washington.

During their talks on Friday, Abbas reiterated to Bush his refusal to dismantle Palestinian resistance groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who have declared a unilateral three-month ceasefire on anti-occupation attacks. 

“Why should we go to civil war against our own people?” said Abbas.

“I believe that if (Israel can be confined) within the 1967 borders, (Hamas) will live with it and will accept it,” he said in an interview with a US-based magazine.