Monday, May 7, 2007

Palestinian Karzai praises U.S. security plan as step toward easing Palestinian suffering

"Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Monday praised a U.S. plan that aims to set the stage for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace talks by setting a timetable for both sides to take confidence-building steps.

"The American document, which the Palestinian leadership has received, included important steps to achieve security in the Palestinian territories," Abbas was quoted as saying by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA.

The plan, Abbas said, was a first step towards "easing the suffering of the Palestinian people," WAFA reported.

The proposal calls for a timeline for "benchmark" moves, including a crackdown by Palestinian security forces on rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and an easing of Israeli restrictions on Palestinians.

Palestinian militant groups, however, including the Fatah-aligned Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, urged Abbas to reject it. Israel has also voiced reservations over some aspects of the blueprint.

"The U.S. plan is totally rejected. We urge President Mahmoud Abbas not to deal with it because it aims to satisfy Israel's security and cause internal tension among Palestinians," said Khaled al-Batsh, an Islamic Jihad leader.....

"We want it to be implemented. We hope to see the Israelis implement it," said top Abbas aide Saeb Erekat.....

Abbas, in a meeting with Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Gaza on Sunday, failed to persuade him to support the U.S. timeline or reach agreement on a division of security responsibilities, an official close to the talks said.....

Hamas, which leads a Palestinian unity government, has also flatly rejected the U.S. plan, under which Abbas would start deploying his Fatah-dominated forces by mid-June to halt rocket fire and smuggling by Gaza militants.

"I do not think that President Abbas lives in isolation from the Palestinian people or that he will take a decision that contradicts the Palestinian consensus, which advocated the right to resist occupation by all forms," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.

Abu Qusai spokesman of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, said the U.S. proposal "should not even be discussed.""

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