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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas last week reiterated that his government would only enter direct peace negotiations with Israel if there is "progress" made on main issues during the indirect talks.

Abbas told Voice of Palestine Radio in a special interview from the African Union summit in Uganda that direct talks with Israel would first need "clear and specific references," adding "without it, the talks would collapse at the very beginning."

He stressed that the Palestinians will launch the direct negotiations "only if progress is made in the issues of security, borders and the freeze of settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem."

Abbas also expressed readiness to meet face-to-face with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "if references for the talks are specified."

For the Palestinians, those references include Israel's recognition of the principle of a two-state solution and its suspension of settlement activities.

The Israeli and Palestinian governments have set a four-month period to hold indirect talks sponsored by the United States, which is to end in September.

The US administration of Barack Obama and the European Union have asked both sides to go for direct negotiations. The foreign ministers of the Arab League are were set to meet in Cairo to consider giving support to direct talks.

"The entire world is asking us to go for direct negotiations, but going to negotiations without a clear reference might make them collapse from the first moment," Abbas said.

Abbas denied that the Palestinians were hindering the start of direct talks with Israel after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they were dragging their feet.

"We are ready to hold direct peace negotiations with Israel," Abbas told reporters in Amman, adding however they should have the 1967 borders as a reference.

"Direct talks should be held in line with a clear reference -- the 1967 borders as a reference," Abbas said after talks with Jordan's King Abdullah II.

"We have negotiated with Israeli governments before, more than once. Why would we avoid such talks? We are not."

Netanyahu told the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs and defense earlier that the Palestinians were trying to sneak out of direct negotiations while Israel was ready to start them "immediately."

"We have an understanding with the Americans that we need to move now, without any delay, to direct negotiations, but in response, we have a clear Palestinian attempt to avoid this process," Netanyahu said.

"They are trying to stall and to sneak away from direct negotiations and to cause the Arab League to shackle the talks."

Netanyahu's remarks come just days ahead of a meeting in Cairo between Abbas and the Arab League at which the Palestinian leader will discuss the indirect talks with Israel, which began in May, and will also address the pressing question of a shift to direct negotiations.

Abbas has repeatedly said he would not move to direct talks without tangible progress on the key issues of borders and security, and without a complete freeze on Jewish settlement building on occupied Palestinian land.

After his talks with King Abdullah the palace issued a statement quoting Abbas as saying: "I have two things to say about holding direct talks: The 1967 borders, and freezing settlement building.

"Then, direct talks will be possible, very possible," Abbas said.

"The indirect talks are still on, and we will discuss future steps at the Arab League soon," he added.

Abbas is due to meet Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos in Amman before flying to Cairo.

The Palestinians and the Arabs are under immense U.S. pressure to start direct negotiations prior to the deadline of the proximity talks on Sept. 26, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) said.

U.S. Middle East Envoy George Mitchell sent Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a verbal message from U.S. President Barack Obama last week, indicating indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis have reached a dead end and the Palestinians should move to direct talks, Nayef Hawatmeh, DFLP's secretary general said in the Jordanian capital Amman.

Hawatmeh said the Palestinian Central Council will hold a meeting next month to discuss the latest developments regarding the indirect negotiations and the U.S. efforts to start direct talks.

He called on the Arab Follow-up Committee not to make a decision to start direct negotiations during its meeting so as to allow for the completion of indirect talks.

Hawatmeh highlighted the necessity to complete the indirect talks, saying it is important to set a specific time frame for direct talks before they start, adding these talks should be held under international monitoring and in the presence of an international team.

Besides, it is also necessary to freeze the settlements and lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip before starting face-to-face talks, he said, adding if the negotiations should fail Palestinians should look for other options such as asking the Security Council to impose penalties on any party that place obstacles on the path of the peace process.

Hawatmeh said the Israeli government has been taking aggressive unilateral measures and proceeding with the settlement activities.

Meanwhile, he stressed the necessity to end the division between the Palestinian factions and to resume the national dialogue.

On the other hand, Israel dismissed moves by the UN Human Rights Council to open its own probe into a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, saying the panel was biased.

"This panel of experts is not intending to look for the truth but to satisfy the non-democratic countries which control the Human Rights Council, who have an automatic anti-Israeli majority," a senior Israeli official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

His remarks came two days after the UN body named a panel of experts to investigate whether the commando operation, in which nine Turkish activists were shot dead, breached international law.

Although Israel has yet to respond officially to the council's request for cooperation, the government was widely expected to refuse to have anything to do with it. An official statement is expected out later this week.

Speaking to Israel HaYom newspaper, a senior official from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said there was no chance Israel would cooperate with such a "biased" investigation.

"It is clear that this is a biased committee with a biased mandate, which was established by a council that deals with Israel in a tendentious and truly obsessive way," he told the paper, which is considered close to Netanyahu.

However, the mass-selling Yediot Ahronot daily reported that Israel was likely to agree to cooperate with the work of another UN committee examining the raid -- an international panel proposed by UN chief Ban Ki-moon which will include both Turkish and Israeli participation.

Although the committee has not yet been set up, Israel has been in consultations with Ban over its composition, the paper said.

In return for its cooperation, Israel has asked that the committee begin its work only after the Jewish state has completed its own internal probe, and that the panel's findings take precedence over all other international probes into the raid, the paper said.

Israel has consistently rejected calls for an international independent investigation into the raid and instead launched two internal inquiries.

Troops involved in the raid say they resorted to lethal force only after being attacked when they rappelled from helicopters onto the deck of the Turkish passenger ferry Mavi Marmara in international waters.

But the activists who were on the ship say the naval commandos opened fire as soon as they boarded.

The 47-member Human Rights Council condemned the raid as an "outrageous attack" during an emergency session just days after the operation and decided to set up a commission of inquiry.

The panel is due to present its findings in mid-September.