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December 14, 2004

Abbas Calls on Palestinians to End "Armed Struggle"

Seems like a first step:

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said his people should drop their weapons in the struggle for a state, marking out a clear change of strategy for peace with Israel after Yasser Arafat's death last month.

Abbas, near certain to win a Jan. 9 election to succeed Arafat, made the comments in an interview published on Tuesday, two days after militants showed their muscle with the deadliest attack on Israeli troops since May. Fresh violence killed a Palestinian policeman and a Thai farmer at a Jewish settlement.

Abbas, a U.S.-favored veteran leader had previously shown his opposition to armed attacks in a 4-year-old uprising, but not in such strong terms since Arafat's death on Nov. 11.

"The uprising should be kept away from arms because it is a legitimate right of the people to express their rejection of the occupation by popular and social means," Abbas told the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

"The use of arms has been damaging and should end," said Abbas, who took over as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization after Arafat's death.

Despite Abbas's stance, growing violence in the occupied Gaza Strip has dampened hopes of a peace breakthrough after Arafat's death. Israel ordered more efforts to target militants after an attack that killed five Israeli troops on Sunday.

"We will continue this fight against terror until someone else fights the terror," Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters, alluding to Abbas's Palestinian Authority.



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posted by Ace at 01:55 PM

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