An adviser to Sharon announced on Friday that the prime minister had cut off all official contact with the Palestinian leadership in response to a bombing at an Israeli border crossing in the Gaza Strip coordinated by three Palestinian resistance groups on Thursday.

 

But in response to the move, Uraiqat argued that the gesture would hamper the resumption of peace talks.

 

"We reject the freezing of contacts announced by Israel as well as the criticism addressed at Mahmud Abbas because he does not officially take office until Saturday," Uraiqat said.

 

"The best way to relaunch the peace process is not to freeze contacts but to resume them."

 

Downturn

 

Abbas, who was elected president of the Palestinian Authority in a landslide election on Sunday, is due to be officially sworn in on Saturday.

 

Abbas is yet to be sworn in as
Palestinian president

But any hopes for a honeymoon period for the new leader were shattered on Thursday when three resistance groups carried out an attack that killed six Israeli occupation soldiers. Some commentators say the attack was carried out in defiance of Abbas, who earlier this week called on the Palestinian resistance to lay down its arms.

 

However the resistance groups say the attack was a message to Sharon to stop attacks on the Palestinians and had been in the planning prior to Abbas' election.

 

Assaf Sharif, Sharon's media adviser, said: "The prime minister decided to freeze all contacts, including those related to security, because the Palestinians continue to do nothing against terrorism.

 

"The grace period that we accorded Mahmud Abbas is over and there is no longer a question of having a good moment for a meeting between him and the prime minister for a while at least."

 

Sharon and Abbas had spoken by phone earlier in the week in the highest level Israeli-Palestinian contact in years. They had been widely expected to meet soon to discuss security coordination in a run-up to Israel's planned pullout from the Gaza Strip later this year.