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PLO, Arafat Abbas Agree To Crackdown On Hammas

PLO Backs PM Abbas, PNA Measures to Enforce Law, Public Order

The Palestinian leadership, following a meeting chaired by President Yasser Arafat late Wednesday, confirmed its backing to the government of Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas and the measures it has announced to put an end to armed phenomena and the violations of public order, and called upon all Palestinians to commit to the sole leadership of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and to the sovereignty of law.

The meeting was scheduled to resume on Thursday.

Earlier the Palestinian Ministry of Interior on Wednesday banned all representatives of the Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups from giving media interviews after they claimed responsibility for the previous day's bombing in Jerusalem, a police source told AFP.

"It is forbidden for any person from Hamas or Islamic Jihad to do any media interviews, either live or by phone,” the source told AFP. The ban includes print, television and radio, he said.

Following an emergency cabinet meeting in Gaza late Wednesday, PM Abbas went to meet with President Arafat to seek approval for a series of measures against the Palestinian groups responsible for a bombing in Jerusalem Tuesday which killed 20 people and wounded more than 100.

President Arafat called for a leadership meeting at the highest level.

Members of the PLO executive committee, the Palestine National Authority (PNA) Cabinet, the central committee of Fatah, and representatives of Palestinian factions met Wednesday night at President Arafat’s besieged and battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah to discuss “the difficult and deteriorating situation both regionally and at homeland” and to deal with this situation in a way that “guarantees the security, interests, and the just national goals of the Palestinian people in accordance with the resolutions of international legitimacy,” the leadership said in a statement reported by the official news agency WAFA.

The meeting renewed condemnation of the bombing in Jerusalem on Tuesday, “for which Hamas officially announced its responsibility” and adopted four decisions to establish the PLO’s sole decision-making authority and to back PM Abass’s measures to enforce respect to law and public order and to end violations thereof.

“First: All (Palestinians) shall commit to one authority and the sovereignty of law shall apply to all,” the PLO decided.

The meeting backed the government of PM Abbas “in all its measures, which guarantee the enforcement of this commitment, including the disciplined use of arms, the removal of all armed phenomena and elimination of violations of public order by all parties,” the PLO statement said.

The Palestinian leadership called upon all factions to back Abbas’ measures, with the ruling Fatah party “in the forefront.”

“Second: The leadership calls upon all the factions of the PLO, Fatah first, to totally commit to these instructions and to back the PNA to immediately enforce its measures.”

The PNA security agencies were ordered to immediately enforce the leadership’s decisions.

“Third: The security agencies shall immediately assume the enforcement of the related decisions of the leadership and the government and to implement the the PNA’s obligations stipulated in the roadmap (peace plan, which was drafted and adopted by the Quartet of the EU, the US, the UN and Russia), to prevent any violation of the law and public order,” the statement added.

At the same time the Palestinian leadership urged the Quartet to commit Israel to its obligations stipulated in the “roadmap.” Israeli violations thereof have invited Palestinian retaliations without authorization by the PLO or the PNA.

The PLO called on “the Quartet to commit the Israeli side to non-violation thereof and to implement its obligations stipulated in the roadmap, particularly lifting the siege (the Israeli Occupation Forces IOF) impose on Palestinian territories), freezing settlement activity, stopping the construction of the Apatheid (Sefregation) Wall, release of detainees (in IOF jails), and halting aggressions against Palestinian civilians, completing the (IOF) withdrawals from all cities, villages and (refugee) camps to pre-28 September 2000 lines, ending (Israeli) encroachments on Christian and Muslim holy places, particularly in Hebron, Holy Jerusalem together with Al Haram Al-Sharif (which is home to Islam’s third holiest site in Al Aqsa Mosque), all within the framework of the basic goal of the establishment of the independent Palestinian state by 2005, with the Holy Jerusalem as its capital city, and the just solution of the (Palestinian) Refugees Issue.”

The PLO leadership concluded by deeming it “important to indicate that the (Palestinian) effective security control is linked to ousting the (Israeli) occupation from our Palestinian land.”

Earlier Wednesday, the PNA pledged to capture the perpetrators of Tuesday’s bombing.

Just hours after the bombing, Abbas severed all contacts with both Hamas and Islamic Jihad and initial moves to censor the two groups were announced Wednesday evening, with Palestinian police officials imposing a blanket ban on both groups from talking to the media.

The IOF closed border crossings to seal off the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the Israeli government suspended all contacts with the PNA after the bombing.

Palestinian MP and former chief negotiator Saeb Erekat criticized the decision, saying that it was important to maintain contacts.

"The main message I want to send to the Americans (who sponsor the ‘roadmap’) is that ... every possible effort should be exerted to keep the road map and the truce alive,” he said.

The Bush administration demanded Wednesday that PM Mahmoud Abbas clamp down on “terror” groups and backed Israel in postponing IOF withdrawals from the Israeli-reoccupied West Bank.

"The message that we are conveying directly to the Palestinian side is that they need to move now on security,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.

President Bush telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon from his Texas vacation retreat and Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security assistant, telephoned Israeli and Palestinian officials.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush expressed his condolences for the Tuesday bomb attack in Jerusalem. He said Bush remains committed to achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

At least five of the victims in the Jerusalem bombing were US citizens.

"The two leaders said this latest attack on Jerusalem only reinforced the need to crack down on terrorists and terrorist infrastructure,” McClellan said. "They agreed that the way forward to peace is through the dismantlement of terrorist organizations.”

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