"President Abbas expresses his astonishment at the campaign against the Palestinian Authority during Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the United States," a statement issued by Abbas' office in Ram Allah on Wednesday said.

  

"Abu Mazin (Abbas) has been elected by the Palestinian people on the basis of a clear programme of political reform and security."

  

The statement added: "He has the full support of the Palestinian people to implement his peace programme with Israel on the basis of President Bush's two-state vision through the implementation of the roadmap."

 

Lame duck

  

Reports said Sharon claimed that
Abbas was fighting for survival

The statement reflected anger on the part of Abbas over attempts by Sharon to persuade Bush that the Palestinian Authority was failing to meet its commitments to end attacks by fighters and that Abbas was a lame duck.

 

According to Israeli media reports, Sharon told the Americans during Monday's summit in Texas that Abbas was fighting for his survival.

 

Sharon also pointedly referred to Abbas as chairman of the Palestinian Authority while Bush called him President Abbas.

  

Bush, who is expected to host Abbas at the White House in the coming weeks, also stressed in a joint press conference with Sharon that he trusted the Palestinian leader who was elected as the successor to the late Yasir Arafat in January.

 

Downhill plunge

  

"He has the full
support of the Palestinian people to implement his peace programme
with
Israel"

statement from Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas' office

Relations between Sharon and Abbas have gone rapidly downhill since they met at a summit in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm al-Shaikh on 8 February.

  

At that meeting, the first between the senior Israeli and Palestinian leaders in more than five years, both men declared an end to hostilities between the two sides.

  

But agreements on the release of prisoners and the transfer of security control in parts of the West Bank have become bogged down amid mutual recriminations.

  

The statement from Abbas's office said that "the delays by the Israeli government in carrying out what was agreed at Sharm al-Shaikh ... represent an obstacle in the way of the hudna", a reference to a temporary truce being observed by the main resistance groups.