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Abbas Calls for Peace Talks After Poll
by Arab News (repost)
Thursday Jan 6th, 2005 9:13 PM
ERUSALEM, 7 January 2005 — PLO leader and top contender Mahmoud Abbas yesterday called for peace talks with Israel after the Jan.9 Palestinian presidential election, a sharp contrast to days of hard-line campaign pronouncements that included his labeling Israel the “Zionist enemy.”

Abbas changed his harsh tone from four days of campaigning in Gaza in an unlikely place — the West Bank city of Nablus, a stronghold of fighters and semi-autonomous armed groups that rule refugee camps and neighborhoods and score points with bloody attacks against Israelis.

At a news conference during a campaign swing through the city, Abbas said he would welcome peace talks with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon — vilified by many Palestinians because of harsh Israeli measures during the current conflict.

“After the elections, we will start negotiations,” Abbas said. “Ariel Sharon is an elected leader and we will negotiate with him. We will put the road map on the table and say that we are ready to implement it completely.”

The internationally backed road map, which envisions an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel, was presented in June2003 .

Fighters appeared ready to give Abbas a chance. Ala Sanakra, a local leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, an offshoot of Abbas’ Fatah movement, said Abbas wants to negotiate a cease-fire with Israel. Sanakra said his fighters would go along if Israel stops its military activity.

During the campaign, Abbas,69 , has worked hard to expand his constituency, trying to attract younger, more militant Palestinians with hard-line statements identifying with gunmen and backing the right of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants — about 4 million people — to return to the homes they lost in the1948 - 49war after Israel’s creation.

Such stands are anathema to Israel, which demands implementation of the road map provision to eliminate the groups responsible for attacks against Israelis and rejects the “right of return” as an attempt to undermine the Jewish state.§ion=0&article=57200&d=7&m=1&y=2005
by Daily Star, Lebanon
Thursday Jan 6th, 2005 9:14 PM
Abbas pledges to talk peace with Sharon
PA election favorite softens tone

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Friday, January 07, 2005

Just two days after branding Israel the "Zionist enemy," Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas pledged Thursday to pursue peace talks following the presidential election he is widely expected to win. In another development, Israel denied prisoners the right to vote and settlers threatened to hamper the polls in East Jerusalem. "After the elections and the appointment of the Cabinet, we will negotiate with the Israelis," Abbas said.

Asked if he would talk with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Abbas replied: "I cannot say he is not a partner. He is elected and we will negotiate with him."

As Palestinian prime minister, Abbas met Sharon at the Israeli leader's Jerusalem office in May 2003 and a month later at a Middle East conference in Jordan that affirmed an internationally backed peace "road map." Abbas has spoken often since Yasser Arafat's death on Nov. 11 about hopes for a resumption of peace negotiations with Israel.

But after an Israeli tank shell killed seven Palestinian youths in Gaza on Tuesday, Abbas characterized Israel as the "Zionist enemy." Sharon's deputy condemned the use of the term as intolerable, and in what appeared to be a fence-mending gesture, Abbas extended his hand in an interview published Thursday in Israel's Maariv daily.

"We are interested in negotiations, out of a belief they will succeed. We are ready, and if Israel is interested, let's do it," he was quoted as saying. Israeli officials welcomed the new tone. "The prime minister has said that immediately after the elections he will meet with whoever gets elected to coordinate security issues ..." said a senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity. Israel has promised to help ensure the Palestinian elections go smoothly by pulling its troops out of West Bank cities.

But soldiers raided a restaurant near the West Bank city of Hebron and briefly detained 20 people, including a group of Abbas campaigners. The army said it was acting on a security alert. More than 10,000 Palestinians joined campaign rallies for Abbas at Nablus's Al-Najah University and the nearby Balata refugee camp, where Abbas embraced fighters from the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. A local leader of the Al-Aqsa Brigades said his militants would negotiate a cease-fire if Israel stops its military activity.

Thousands whistled and cheered as Abbas repeated core Palestinian demands for the removal of all of the settlements Israel has built in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

He also reiterated his call for the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.

"We will not forget our prisoners," he also said to applause in Nablus.

But the Israeli Supreme Court rejected an appeal to allow the estimated 8,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails to vote for a successor to the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Palestinian Prisoner Affairs Minister Hisham Abdel-Razzeq, who had lodged the appeal, said the decision was "illegal." The Bethlehem-based Prisoners' Club said Israel was trying to brush under the carpet an issue that tops the agendas of many Palestinian factions and urged prisoners' families to exercise their right to vote on their behalf. Abbas has also urged Palestinian fighters to cease mortar bomb and rocket attacks, saying they only drew heavy Israeli retaliation.

Militant groups have rejected the call and Abbas's Fatah faction accused the Hamas movement on Wednesday of sedition which threatened the first Palestinian presidential election since 1996. Responding to Fatah's broadside, Hamas said its attacks on Gaza settlements and Israeli border towns were "acts of self-defense in response to continued Israeli aggression." - Agencies
by Abu Mazen blew it...
Friday Jan 7th, 2005 4:12 PM
Abbas just sealed his fate...i wonder who's going to replace him after the raucous funeral...