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Palestinian PM Meets with Mabarak, Abdullah II

Palestinian PM Meets with Mabarak, Abdullah II ahead of Meeting Bush


Abbas: Israel must move on prisoners for ‘peace to prevail’

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas is expected in Amman Tuesday for a meeting with King Abdullah II, after a meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo Monday at the start of a trip culminating in talks at the White House with the US President Bush, which Palestinian leadership hopes will help break the deadlock with Israel in the peace process.

PM Abbas, who had traveled Sunday from the West Bank town of Ramallah to Amman before flying to Cairo, was due to return to the Jordanian capital on Tuesday for talks with King Abdullah II. He will then depart for Washington where he is due to arrive on Wednesday night.

Abbas is due to hold talks with US President George W. Bush on Friday.

President Bush faces appeals from Palestinian and Israeli leaders to come down on their side as Middle East peacemaking drifts into a crucial but indecisive phase.

Abbas wants illegal Jewish settlers to start clearing out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which Israel occupied in 1967, to make way for a Palestinian state.

Abbas will get the full treatment from the administration and Congress. Thursday he will see Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser. And after lunch with Bush at the White House on Friday, Abbas has separate meetings set with Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Colin Powell, The New York Times reported.

Senior members of Congress will meet Thursday morning with the Palestinian prime minister.

More than 70 House members signed and sent to the White House on Monday a letter approving Bush’s decision to deliver $20 million in US assistance directly to the Palestine National Authority (PNA).

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., a signer, said, “To win public support for dismantling the terrorist infrastructure, Abu Mazen must be able to show the Palestinian people that his government can deliver essential social services that are now provided only by Hamas and other radical groups.”

Ahmed Qorei, the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), said that the White House would be urged to intervene and prevent the peace process outlined in the “roadmap” from crumbling.

“Israel has tried to attach conditions that we find unacceptable and we will see what the Americans have to say about that,” said Qorei, who will accompany Abbas to Washington.

Palestinian information minister Nabil Amre for his part told AFP that the Palestinians would ask Bush to make a clear statement “demanding that the building of the separation fence and settlement activity be halted, and that the siege on president Arafat be lifted.”

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who sees Bush next Tuesday, is seeking US help in pressuring Abbas to begin dismantling Palestinian anti-Israeli occupation groups.

Sharon sent his foreign minister Silvan Shalom ahead to Washington for meetings with congressional leaders Tuesday and with Cheney, Rice and Powell on Wednesday.

Speaking at his ranch in Crawford, Tex., where he was playing host to Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, President Bush said, “Both Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon are showing leadership and courage.”

Israel must move on prisoners for ‘peace to prevail’: Abbas

The Palestinian prime minister met Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo as part of Abbas’s first major foreign tour since assuming his post more than two months ago.

Abbas and Mubarak met in Cairo to discuss “the peace process in the Middle East, the implementation of the roadmap and the truce” declared by Palestinian factions on June 29, sources close to Mubarak said.

A three-week-old Palestinian truce is holding but Israel must free all Palestinian prisoners from its jails if it wants “peace to prevail,” Abbas said Monday.

“What's important for us is the truce that we agreed with Palestinian factions and that everybody respects it,” Abbas said after meeting with President Mubarak.

At the end of June, Egypt helped broker a three-month Palestinian truce, which in turn has led to an Israeli withdrawal from some of the Palestinian territory it had reoccupied since September 2000.

“An atmosphere of security and stability prevails in our territories,” Abbas said at a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher.

When reporters asked about Israel's refusal to release more prisoners, withdraw more troops and scrap settlements, Abbas replied: “If we don't have any progress on those issues, achieving stability will be difficult.”

He added: “That's why if the Israeli government wants peace to prevail, it has to tackle all those issues, and to respect the roadmap which involves all those issues -- whether prisoners, settlements, withdrawals...”

He was referring to the US-backed international “roadmap” for peace, which outlines steps both sides must take toward creating by 2005 a Palestinian state that lives peacefully alongside Israel.

Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, refused to budge on the release of prisoners.

“We want the release of all the prisoners no matter what their affiliations are or their geographic regions,” Abbas said.

He said the Palestinians had not heard Israel refusing to release prisoners from certain organizations, but “had we heard such a thing, we would refuse it completely.”

In a meeting Sunday, Abbas and Sharon clashed over the issue of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat’s long confinement to his headquarters in Ramallah.

Saudi Arabia was also getting involved. The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, delivered a message from Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah to Mubarak on the peace process. He also told reporters in Cairo he had doubts about American commitment to the “roadmap,” Reuters reported.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath on Sunday termed the upcoming meeting between Abbas and President Mubarak as “strategic.”

“The importance of the meeting on Monday is attributed to the fact that it comes shortly before Abbas's trip to the United States,” Shaath told the Cairo-based Voice of the Arab over phone from the Italian capital of Rome.

Describing Egypt as the permanent ally of the Palestinian people, he said the Palestinians have been waging a battle in order to swiftly and fairly implement the “roadmap” peace plan, which was drafted and adopted by the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia then sponsored by the US.


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