16 Jun 2009

Palestinians dismiss Netanyahu offer

4:46 pm on 16 June 2009

Palestinians have dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's offer to back a Palestinian state if it is completely demilitarised.

Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says the world should not be fooled by Mr Netanyahu's apparent shift in position on establishing a Palestinian state because of all the conditions attached.

However, the United States has described Mr Netanyahu's speech as an important step forward.

Earlier, Mr Netanyahu said a Palestinian state must accept the existence of Israel and must have no army, no control of its air space and no way of smuggling in weapons.

His speech comes a month after US President Barack Obama urged him to accept a two-state solution.

He said he was willing to talk immediately to the Palestinians with no preconditions, adding: "We want to live with you in peace as good neighbours." Mr Netanyahu also said he was willing to go to Damascus, Riyadh and Beirut in pursuit of a Middle East peace deal.

Hamas, which took control of the Gaza Strip two years ago, described Mr Netanyahu's address as reflecting a "racist and extremist ideology".