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Abbas Says War With Israel Over

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Abbas says war with israel over



Gaza, Feb. 14: The new Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, said in an interview that the war with the israelis is effectively over and that israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, is speaking “a different language� to the Palestinians. Sharon’s commitment to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle all israeli settlements there and four in the West Bank, despite “how much pressure is on him from the israeli Likud rightists,� Abbas said, “is a good sign to start with� on the road to real peace.

“And now he has a partner,� Abbas said.


In a 40-minute interview in his Gaza office late on Saturday night, Abbas spoke with pride about persuading the radical groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad to respect the mutual declaration of a truce that he and Sharon announced last Tuesday at their first meeting, in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, which was the highest-level meeting between israelis and Palestinians in four years.


Abbas said the war with the israelis would be over “when the israelis declare that they will comply with the agreement I made in Sharm el Sheik, and today our comrades in Hamas and Jihad said they are committed to the truce, the cooling down of the whole situation, and I believe we will start a new era.�


In the interview with The New York Times, his first with a Western news organisation since he was elected president of the Palestinian Author-ity five weeks ago, on January 9, Abbas spoke with confidence and humour in nearly fluent English. He also spoke of several developments that had been made. Hamas made a commitment to him to run in the July elections for the Palestinian legislature, continuing the group’s “conversion into a political party.�


Abbas fired nine senior police and security officials in Gaza and was prepared to fire more if they did not get “the first message� that they are to enforce his cease-fire.


He set the release of Palestinian prisoners as his first priority, and said it would be a measure of how much tensions have eased in the West Bank and Gaza.


He rejected any idea of a sovereign Palestinian State in temporary borders before a final settlement.


The Americans were talking to him “in a very helpful way,� and he hoped the Bush administration would deliver on its promises of political and economic aid.


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