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Abbas Optimistic after Washington Visit

  • Stephanie Ho

Mahmoud Abbas (File photo)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he believes Palestinians and the Israelis can and should move quickly toward bringing about a lasting peace. He spoke in an interview broadcast on television Sunday.

On the ABC television program This Week, President Abbas expressed optimism that now is a good time to move toward peace.

"It's true that we really need an independent Palestinian state, as President Bush said, contiguous, viable, lives side by side with Israel, in peace and stability," he said. "At that time, we will will not need the wall, we will not need settlements, we will not need hatred or aggression. I believe this is very important and beneficial for them and for us. We should seize this opportunity. And time, again, will be our enemy and their enemy, and the enemy of peace."

President Abbas's interview was conducted while he was in Washington Thursday, following a meeting with President Bush at the White House.

During the visit, President Bush pledged $50 million in aid directly to the Palestinian Authority. The U.S. leader also issued an unusually tough call to Israel to dismantle illegal Israeli outposts and stop settlement expansion. Mr. Abbas said comments like that give him confidence.

"I believe that, first of all, this is the position and conviction of President Bush," he said. "And if the Israeli Prime Minister will accept or not, this is his prerogative. But the American position is clear."

In response to calls that the Palestinian Authority must take more action to curb terrorist groups, President Abbas said steps already have been taken to stop what he described as the "culture of violence." For example, he said, all Palestinian factions have publicly condemned suicide bombings.

"This is very important for the future because any operation that will take place or any individuals who want to carry out such operations will not have support, not from the Palestinian Authority, because the Palestinian Authority will oppress these operations, but they will not gain support from ordinary Palestinians."

Since President Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met and signed a cease-fire deal in Egypt in February, violence in the Palestinian territories has dropped sharply.

The Israeli leader also was in Washington last week, where he told a prominent Jewish-American lobbying group that he appreciates what he called "Chairman Abbas's strategic decision to condemn violence and terrorism."

The Palestinian leader noted that he believes Mr. Sharon's comments mark a change in diplomatic rhetoric. But, he also warned that if there are no results in future talks between the two sides, Palestinians could lose hope and return to what he described as "old ideas."

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