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Israel foreign minister: Abbas should resign

JERUSALEM -- Israel's foreign minister charged yesterday that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is an "obstacle" to peace and that he hopes Abbas will soon resign.

The comments by Avigdor Lieberman drew an angry response from Palestinians, who accused him of calling for an assassination and appealed to the United States and the European Union to intervene.

In a briefing with reporters, Lieberman lashed out at the Palestinian leader, saying Abbas has been leading a campaign to delegitimize Israel internationally and that he has become an "obstacle that needs to be removed."

Abbas is leading a drive for United Nations recognition of a Palestinian state. Yesterday, his envoy urged the world body not to delay acting on the Palestinian request. Israel and the United States fiercely oppose the bid, saying independence can be reached only through negotiations.

In the past, Abbas has repeatedly threatened to resign if there is no progress in peace efforts.

"He has been threatening to return the keys and resign? That would not be a threat but a blessing, and I wish he would finally do it," Lieberman said. Lieberman said that despite Abbas' moderate image, he was naming public squares after terrorists, handing out money to killers who were released in last week's prisoner swap and calling for a future Palestinian state that was free of Jews.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a top aide to Abbas, fired back, calling Lieberman the "most extreme, racist person in Israel." "Lieberman is an enemy of peace and he should be condemned by every rational voice in Israel," he said. "If this position represents or reflects the policy of this government, that means that they intend to wage a political war. The Israeli government should apologize for what the foreign minister said."

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