The Palestinian information minister told Aljazeera.net on Sunday that US President George Bush's refusal to designate a timetable for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem was generating uncertainty over the fate of the peace process known as the road map.
 
Bush said during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday that he was not sure that a viable Palestinian state could be created before his term of office expires in 2009.

Bush in 2002 said Palestinian statehood could be achieved by 2005.

Immense difficulties
 
"There is no doubt that the road map is facing immense difficulties. We will wait a few months to see how things will evolve, and if nothing happens, we will have to re-evaluate the entire process," said Minister of Information Nabil Shaath.
 

Israel continues to build illegal
settlements on Palestinian land

Shaath said Palestinians would not accept an open-ended or protracted process whereby Israel continued to steal Palestinian land and build more Jewish colonies in the West Bank.
 
"We don't cling to the road map for the sake of it. If this road map fails to achieve peace and enable us to recover our rights and land, then we will abandon it."

Asked if he was afraid that the road map would face the same fate as previous peace initiatives, Shaath said: "We will wait a few months to see how things evolve."
 
Palestinian killed

Meanwhile, two Palestinian armed men were shot dead by Israeli troops during a confrontation late on Sunday in the northern West Bank city of Tulkarim, Palestinian medical and security sources said.

Security sources named the men as Majid al-Ashqar, 28, and Yusuf al-Hanna, 25, saying they were shot during an exchange of fire with Israeli occupation soldiers who had surrounded a house where they were hiding. 

A Palestinian attacked an Israeli
police officer, reports said

Al-Ashqar had been associated with the al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades but had recently changed affiliations and joined Islamic Jihad, they said. It was not clear whether al-Hanna was associated with any group.

The Israeli occupation army confirmed that two Palestinians had been killed in the city during an arrest operation in which one soldier was lightly wounded by gunfire.

The deaths brought the overall toll since the September 2000 outbreak of the second Palestinian uprising, or intifada, to 4853 Palestinians, Israelis and foreigners, according to an AFP count.

Checkpoint stabbing

Also on Sunday, a suspected Palestinian car thief attacked a paramilitary Israeli police officer with a knife at a checkpoint in the occupied West Bank, wounding two people before being shot and wounded, reports said.

A police spokesman, Shmuel Ben-Ruby, confirmed that the officer had been "searching for thieves" at the checkpoint outside Bethlehem.

All three casualties were taken to hospital for treatment, he said.