Countering Palestinian claims that the right to return was guaranteed under the US-backed peace plan, Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said the contention was false and unhelpful.

"It’s a statement that can only hurt things because it's false," Pazner said.

Earlier on Friday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath had insisted the right of return was an integral part of an Arab peace initiative used as a reference point in the "roadmap" promoted by Washington.

"The roadmap says absolutely nothing about the refugees' right of return and this statement is detrimental to implementation of the roadmap," the Israeli spokesman said.

"Israel has no intention, under any circumstance and within any framework, of accepting the return of refugees in Israeli cities which Nabil Shaath terms Palestinians cities," Pazner said.

The right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees is one of the most emotional and contentious issues for both sides and has been a major hurdle in bringing about lasting peace in the region.

Speaking in Beirut, the Palestinian foreign minister forcefully argued the case for the refugees' return.

The right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees is one of the most emotional and contentious issues for both sides.

"I want to be clear. This right includes returning to an independent state and to Palestinian cities in the Jewish state. Whether a person returns to Haifa in Israel or to Nablus in West Bank, their return is guaranteed," Shaath argued.

"No condition has been set for a return only to an independent Palestinian state. The right of return is no longer an illusion," the Palestinian leader said.

He maintained the right was included in the peace initiative adopted unanimously by an Arab summit in Beirut last year and used as a basis for the "roadmap".

The Israelis say the Palestinian refugees, if they want, can return to their future state, referring to the ultimate goal of the peace "roadmap".

The dispute over the right of return concerns an estimated five million Palestinians who fled or were chased from their homes after the state of Israel was born.