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Arafat Agrees to Form ‘Unified National Leadership

Arafat Agrees to Form ‘Unified National Leadership within PLO’

Israel’s Pledge to US on Assassinations ‘Insufficient’: Shaath

PNA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) has announced that President Yasser Arafat agreed to form a “unified national leadership” (UNL) within the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), a proposal which would be discussed in detail at a second round-table meeting on Thursday in Gaza with the Higher Follow-up Committee (HFC) of Palestinian national and Islamic groups.

During a meeting with the HFC in Gaza on Tuesday, Abbas said he was ready to start talks to form the proposed UNL, indicating that meetings are ongoing in the West Bank with the participation of all factions, except Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The former Palestinian chief negotiator at the Madrid Conference in 1992-1993, Haider Abdul-Shafi, attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Palestinian information minister Nabil Amre said the meeting was “making good progress”.

"We are now waiting for guarantees from the Israeli side about what we have asked," he said, referring to a joint Israeli-Palestinian security meeting in Gaza earlier at which the Palestinians asked Israel to stop all assassinations immediately.

However, a second Israeli-Palestinian security meeting in Gaza late Tuesday failed to work out a breakthrough.

PNA Minister of State for Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan attributed the failure to the “unclear Israeli position.”

“We understood there was not a serious Israeli desire to withdraw from Gaza Strip or any area of the West Bank,” Dahlan said, Al-Quds daily reported on Wednesday.

Moreover, Israelis refused to commit the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) to a complete end to their extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian activists against the 36-year-old Israeli occupation.

“Israel must be obliged to stop all forms of violence and terrorism against the Palestinian people,” the Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath told Al-Ayyam daily Wednesday.

Shaath said that Israel’s pledge to the United States to stop assassinations “except in extraordinary cases” is “insufficient,” and indicated that a clear Israeli commitment in this respect “would pave the way to reaching a truce agreement with Palestinian factions, Hamas in particular.”

A senior Palestinian security source told AFP Tuesday that any assassinations of activists now would completely rule out a ceasefire.
"We hope to come to an agreement with the factions but if Israel carries out any assassination, it will destroy any agreement with them," the source said. "If Israel doesn't stop, we cannot get a ceasefire."

Abbas’ meeting with leaders of all the 13 Palestinian factions Tuesday evening was part of a strong international push for a rapid agreement to end the violence. In recent days, Egyptian mediators traveled to Gaza for this purpose.

“Maybe, after 24 hours, there will be positive results,'' Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi said in Cairo on Tuesday.

A source close to the talks said US mediators would press Israel to end what the IOF term as “targeted killings,” the AP reported.

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