U.S. special Middle East envoy George Mitchell will meet on Thursday with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, following a round of meetings in Lebanon and Syria. Mitchell met with two Lebanese officials, President Michel Suleiman and Nabih Berri, speaker of the parliament, as well as Syrian President Bashar Assad. The results of the meeting have not been disclosed.

In his meeting with Abbas, Mitchell is likely to try to persuade the Palestinian authorities to renew negotiations on a final-status agreement. Abbas has refused so far to return to talks with Israel unless there is a complete construction freeze in the settlements, including East Jerusalem.

However, on Wednesday the Associated Press reported that Abbas suggested the American administration negotiate the borders aspect of the agreement with Israel on the PA's behalf. The agency quoted a Palestinian official as saying that Abbas made the offer in talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The official said the Americans would be given clear guidelines on the Palestinian position. However, other Palestinian sources told Haaretz that Abbas had no intention of authorizing the U.S. to conduct talks on his behalf. They said Abbas made a general statement to the effect that the U.S. must get Israel to agree to retreat to pre-1967 borders.

Mitchell reportedly is not carrying any guarantees or assurances from the United States or Israel that could persuade the Palestinians and Abbas to return to the negotiating table.