On Monday, in his first official visit to Paris since taking office in January, Abbas said he was "sorry" about the killings on Sunday by armed Palestinian men who also injured five Israelis.

 

"All the Palestinian organisations ... that signed the ceasefire accord have condemned this operation," Abbas said, speaking through a translator. "These events harm the ceasefire and the calm that we have respected.

 

"We know there are some groups that want to harm us," Abbas said before a meeting with President Jacques Chirac, who was standing at his side.

 

"As for the relations and contacts with Israelis, we are totally certain that they are going to start again very quickly because there are many issues we must take up with the Israelis," Abbas said.

 

Deadly attack

 

The Palestinian attack near the Gush Etzion block of settlements was the deadliest since July. It followed Israeli intelligence warnings that Palestinian fighters, who claim they drove Israel out of Gaza by force, would now shift their focus to the West Bank.

 

Israel pulled out of Gaza in September in a unilateral move.

 

Abbas was meeting Chirac to discuss the Middle East since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.

 

Chirac (L) supports the Middle
East road map for peace

Chirac reiterated France's support for the long-stalled, internationally backed road map peace plan, which envisions an independent Palestinian state existing peacefully alongside Israel.

 

The French leader said he was encouraged by the successful withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza, saying it "marks the start or gives a jolt" to the process.

 

"France, like the European Union, will always be at the side of those who, in Israel and among the Palestinians, will want peace and will do what is necessary to bring it about," Chirac said.

 

Serious implications

 

Separately, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erikat said Israel's decision to suspend all forms of security contacts and coordination with the Palestinian Authority would have serious implications.

 

Erikat on Monday called on the US administration and the international quartet for immediate intervention. 

 

The Israeli occupation army has imposed tight measures against Palestinian movements in the West Bank after Sunday's attack.

 

Also on Sunday, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian and wounded a bystander in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. The dead man was Nihad Abu Ghanim, 27, an Islamic Jihad activist, who died after being shot in the head, abdomen and chest hospital sources said.

 

"France, like the European Union, will always be at the side of those who, in Israel and among the Palestinians, will want peace and will do what is necessary to bring it about"

Jacques Chirac,
French president

Abbas was in Paris on Monday in advance of a visit to the White House to discuss further implementation of the Middle East road map peace plan.

 

Abbas heads to Washington in an attempt to try to turn Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip into a springboard for resurrecting negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The visits are part of a five-nation tour by the Palestinian leader, which began over the weekend when he visited Jordan and Egypt. He will also travel to Spain before heading to the US midweek.

 

In an accelerated French diplomatic push in the Middle East, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin also is expected to meet on Tuesday with his visiting Lebanese counterpart, Fuad Siniora.