Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is seeking American assurances that implementation of the road map will begin as soon as Israel completes its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,

Abbas, who will meet with Bush in Washington on Thursday, told Labor and Yahad politicians at the Mukata he understood that before the disengagement was completed, Bush does not want to put any pressure on Sharon. But expressed concerns that if what should happen after disengagement was not discussed now, the diplomatic process would grind to a halt the day after the withdrawal.

"My goal on this trip is to succeed in getting American support for the road map and for peace," Abbas said following his meeting with the Israeli politicians.

Yahad leader Yossi Beilin and Labor MKs Colette Avital, Ephraim Sneh, Amram Mitzna and Ghaleb Majadle met with Abbas after they attended a reception for delegates of the Socialist International Council at the Mukata.

Israeli security officials barred Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres from coming to Ramallah for the event.

Abbas told the delegates that contrary to Israeli assessment the PA has already taken the necessary steps to fulfill their commitments in the road map. 

"The sooner the Israelis accept that they have to get started with permanent-status negotiations, the better it is for them, for us, and the international community," Abbas said.

"We are democratic plus. We have undertaken serious reforms to set the democratic process in motion. Our recent municipal elections were so democratic that it was the ruling party that complained about them and not the opposition party." He added.

When the Israeli delegates arrived in Ramallah, some, including Avital, visited the grave of former Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. 

"When Yitzhak Rabin died, Arab leaders came to his grave," she said. "If we come all the way here, regardless of my personal feelings, it would be incorrect not to pay respects to our hosts."

The Social International Council was attended by some 400 delegates from 100 countries. It was the first time Israel hosted the event since 1958.

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