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Palestinian negotiator's resignation accepted

Saeb Erakat
Saeb Erakat

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CNN's Kelly Wallace on the surprise resignation of Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat.
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GAZA CITY (CNN) -- Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday accepted the resignation of Saeb Erakat but gave the longtime chief Palestinian negotiator a week to think about his decision, a Palestinian official told CNN.

Abbas accepted Erakat's resignation during a Cabinet meeting in Gaza, the official said.

Since turning in his resignation Thursday, Erakat said he has met with both Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat and Abbas and "really urged" them to "respect his decision."

Erakat said he is resigning as minister in charge of negotiations and leaving his spot on the Palestine Liberation Organization's negotiating committee.

Erakat's move comes as Abbas and his Israel counterpart, Ariel Sharon, prepare to meet Saturday evening for the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in 2 1/2 years.

Erakat has not said why he decided to step down and said his resignation is being blown out of proportion.

"The least important issue today is my resignation," Erakat said. "The real issue is the lives of Palestinians and Israelis, breaking the vicious cycle and reviving the peace process and putting it back on track."

Palestinian observers said they believe Erakat is mainly leaving because he was not invited to be part of the Palestinian delegation meeting with Sharon.

A Palestinian official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Erakat was upset because the U.S. and Israeli administrations "put forth names" for Abbas to bring with him to the meeting and Abbas accepted those recommendations without demanding others, including Erakat, be invited.

Leading the Palestinian delegation, Abbas will be joined by Mohammed Dahlan, his security chief, and Ahmed Qorei, speaker of the Palestinian parliament.

The Palestinian official said Abbas' message would be that it will impossible for Palestinians to implement security measures unless Israel accepts and starts carrying out the "road map" for Middle East peace.

CNN Correspondent Kelly Wallace, Producer Avivit Dalgoshen and CNN Radio Anchor Brooke Binkowski contributed to this report.

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