Quick to denounce the comment, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya on Tuesday insisted the Palestinians remained firm on their demands – a state within the borders of 1967, the right of return for all refugees and compensation for those who do not want to return.

The Palestinian prime minister also announced he would send a high-level delegation to Amman to help Jordan understand the "reality".

"What King Abd Allah said concerns us greatly and if he has any information about what he said we want to hear it," Quraya said.

"We will form a Palestinian delegation, a senior delegation, to visit Jordan to talk about the reality," he said.

Critical interview

In a television interview earlier on Tuesday, King Abd Allah said he wanted the Palestinian leadership "to declare clearly what it wants and not surprise us every now and then with some decisions or by accepting things that it did not accept before".

"In the beginning, the issue was about the return of 98% of occupied Palestinian territories, then it became about less than 50% of this land and we don’t know what the percentage will be in a year or two," he added.

He also criticised what he called changing demands over the number of Palestinian refugees who should be allowed to return to lost homes in Israel.

But Quraya said there was never any confusion about Palestinian demands.

Political crisis

King Abd Allah's comments come at a time that has seen a political crisis grip the Palestinian leadership.

A power struggle has been brewing in Gaza in anticipation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw troops and settlers from the occupied territory by the end of 2005.

In the past several weeks, Quraya and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat have clashed over charges of corruption in the security forces and Arafat's alleged curbing of Quraya's powers.

Three foreign teachers were
seized and then released in Gaza

In a further deterioration of the political climate, Palestinian fighters linked to Arafat's Fatah faction sparked a spate of Gaza kidnappings as they sought to bring pressure to bear on the embattled Palestinian Authority.

Quraya, widely viewed as a moderate voice in the Palestinian Authority, had called for reform and submitted his resignation to Arafat last week because of the issue.

He wants Arafat to relinquish control, both direct and indirect, over security forces. So far, Arafat has agreed to only superficial changes.