Monday, June 25, 2007
Abbas to demand release of Barghouti
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to demand the release of hundreds of Fatah prisoners from Israeli jails during Monday's summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, PA officials said.
The officials also said Abbas would call for supplying the Fatah-controlled security forces with more weapons to thwart attempts by Hamas to try to take over the West Bank.
"We want thousands of rifles, hundreds of armored vehicles and a lot of ammunition," one PA official told The Jerusalem Post. "We also want Jordan and Egypt to help train our forces in the West Bank.
Another official said that Abbas and his aides would ask Israel to release senior Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti and hundreds of Fatah prisoners to enhance Fatah's status. "We will also ask Israel to remove most of the checkpoints in the West Bank and to increase the number of Palestinians who are permitted to work in Israel," he said. "These measures are needed to boost Fatah's standing in the West Bank and to prevent Hamas from establishing bases of support there."
He said Abbas would also ask Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to instruct the IDF to stop pursuing Fatah gunmen and to refrain from raiding Palestinian cities and villages in the West Bank.
The official said Abbas would also seek backing for the deployment of an international force in the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, who met on Sunday in Amman with Jordan's King Abdullah, reiterated his refusal to refusal to talk to Hamas, which he accused of staging a "coup" in the Gaza Strip. He called for a "political horizon in the forthcoming stage that falls in conformity with the relevant UN resolutions and US President George W. Bush's vision" for creating an independent Palestinian state.
Asked whether Abbas expected Olmert to extend anything to him during the summit, Abbas said, "We have received promises from US and Israeli parties, but the important thing is to find these promises honored on the ground."
The Jordanian monarch released a royal court statement which read, "The king underscored the importance of seizing this opportunity for producing a clearly defined vision along with a timetable for relaunching the negotiation process."
Abdullah also urged Arab countries and the world community to extend support to "efforts under way for resuming the peace process," which he said should lead to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that lives in peace with Israel.
In addition, Abdullah said that today's summit "should discuss possible means for supporting the Palestinian people and lifting the siege" imposed on the Palestinians after Hamas came to power in 2006.
In his first pubic speech since Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip, deposed Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas warned the Arab states and the Palestinians against pinning high hopes on Monday's summit in Sharm e-Sheikh.
"Summits with the Americans and Israelis won't restore the rights of the Palestinians," Haniyeh said. "These rights will be restored only through resistance and perseverance."
Haniyeh's remarks came as a top PA security official in Ramallah accused Iran of backing Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh accused Israel of meddling in Palestinian internal affairs by tightening its siege on the Gaza Strip and pouring millions of dollars and weapons on Fatah in the West Bank.
He said Hamas's decision to take over the Gaza Strip came after the movement had come under pressure and attack in the past 18 months.
Haniyeh said, "We have no problem with Fatah, but with a certain group inside Fatah that was working with foreign parties against Hamas," he said. He also called on Abbas to distribute the tax revenues that Israel is about to transfer to the government of Salaam Fayad to all Palestinians.
Haniyeh denied allegations that Hamas had planned to assassinate Abbas. He said that the booby-trapped underground tunnels that were discovered in the Gaza Strip were only supposed to be used against Israel.
Fatah officials here scoffed at Haniyeh's remarks, saying he was now trying to provide a political cover for the military coup that Hamas staged in the Gaza Strip.
"The man is a liar," said Fahmi Za'rour, a Fatah spokesman in the West Bank. "The day will come when he will face a criminal tribunal for his crimes."
Tawfik Tirawi, head of the PA General Intelligence Service, accused Iran of supporting Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip. He told reporters that Hamas members had traveled to Iran and other Islamic countries where they underwent military training.
He denied charges by Hamas that the PA security forces had been collaborating with Israel. He said Hamas members in the West Bank have been stockpiling weapons ahead of a possible confrontation with Fatah.