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Abbas Briefs Arafat Discussion Points with Sharon

Abbas Briefs Arafat on ‘Discussion Points’ with Sharon, Bush

President Yasser Arafat and the executive committee of the PLO were briefed by Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas on the “discussion points” the Palestinian premier will raise up during his upcoming meetings with his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon Sunday and with the US President Bush in Washington on July 25.

In a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chaired by President Arafat in his battered and besieged headquarters in Ramallah Saturday, attended also by the representative of Palestinian factions and civil society, the Palestinian leaders stressed the “national unity” to confront the aggressive Israeli measures against the peace process and the US-sponsored “roadmap” peace plan, the official Palestinian news agency WAFA reported.

PM Abbas briefed the meeting on “the discussion points he will raise up during his encounter with Sharon on Sunday, 20 July 2003, and with (US President George W.) Bush on 25 July 2003,” Wafa said.

Separately the Palestine National Authority (PNA) Cabinet, in its weekly meeting in Ramallah Saturday, announced that the Palestinian delegation to meet with Sharon will be headed by PM Abbas and comprises cabinet minister of information Nabil Amre, detainees minister Hisham Abdul Razeq and minister of state for security affairs Mohammad Dahlan.

The cabinet stressed Israel should fulfill its obligations under the international "roadmap," which was drafted and adopted by the US, UN, EU and Russia.

The cabinet "expects decisions from the Israeli government on prisoner releases, on an end to the dividing wall (between the West Bank and Israel and) a freeze on settlement building,” it said.

The cabinet also called for continued Israeli withdrawals from Palestinian cities, a lifting of military roadblocks and checkpoints imposed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and an end to the siege on Yasser Arafat.

Under the “roadmap,” Israel is required to pull its troops back to the lines of 28 September 2000, when the Intifada against the Israeli 36-year old occupation broke out, as well as freeze all settlement building in the occupied territories.

So far, Israel has only withdrawn from the West Bank town of Bethlehem and most of the Gaza Strip, but maintained a strict military siege on both areas.

Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudeina accused Israel of "postponing its withdrawal from Palestinian areas to torpedo international support for the peace process."

He told AFP that Israel should finish withdrawing to the 28 September, 2000 lines "before the end of the truce.”

The detainees issue is mentioned in the “roadmap” through the reference to Tenet plan.

“During the meeting we will demand the release of Palestinian prisoners. The prisoners issue is a red line. We will accept no compromises on it and the Israelis have to understand that,'' one Palestinian official told Reuters.

Palestinians maintain there are some 8,000 Palestinian detainees in Israel, while Israelis say there are some 6,000.

Sharon on his part intends to press Abbas to "dismantle terrorist infrastructures,” a demand repeatedly put forward by the Israeli premier with US backing, an Israeli government spokesman told AFP.

Sunday’s talks between Abbas and Sharon will be the fourth time the two have met since Abbas took office in April. It will be their second meeting since the truce was declared on June 29.

Sunday's meeting kicks off 10 days of intense Middle East diplomacy in which Bush will receive Abbas on July 25 and Sharon on July 29.

Abbas will head the Palestinian delegation to the meeting with Bush, accompanied by the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council Ahmad Qurei (Abu Alaa), PNA foreign minister Nabil Shaath, finance minister Salam Fayyadh, and Dahlan, the Cabinet said in a statement.

The Cabinet voiced “gratitude to President Bush’s efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East, create the independent Palestinian state, and resolve all the permanent status issues,” which are all incorporated in President Bush “vision” and the “roadmap plan.”

The PNA Cabinet confirmed that PM Abbas’ visit to the United States “will be preceded by meetings with Jordanian and Egyptian brothers.”

Media reports said that Abbas will be received by the Jordanian monarch Abdullah II in Amman on Monday and will hold talks with Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo before he departs to Washington.

The PNA Cabinet evaluated positively European and friendly nations who rejected Israeli incitement against President Arafat.

“The Cabinet highly appreciates the stances of West Europe nations and other friendly states which rejected the Israeli PM Sharon’s incitement against President Yasser Arafat by boycotting him and announced they will continue to deal with him as an elected president of the Palestinian people and as the decision-maker” for the progress of the regional peace process.

The PNA Cabinet rejected the Israeli Knesset’s resolution considering the West Bank and Gaza Strip “unoccupied” territories.

The Cabinet “rejected the Israeli Knesset resolution considering the West Bank and Gaza (Strip) unoccupied land as illegitimate and noted the initiative by the PLC to add the issue to its agenda,” the cabinet said in a statement reported by WAFA.

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