Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has been chosen
again to lead his Fatah party.
Thousands of delegates applauded as
President Abbas was re-elected Fatah leader at the Palestinian
movement's first convention in 20 years. He addressed the gathering in
the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.
Mr. Abbas vowed to
liberate Palestinian land and establish an independent state with
Jerusalem as its capital. The statement was a direct challenge to
Israel's right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has said
Israeli sovereignty over all of Jerusalem is not negotiable.
Mr. Abbas said Israel's position could lead to more conflict.
'Although we have chosen peace," he said, "we reserve the right to return to armed resistance."
re-election of Mr. Abbas puts him in a position to resume peace talks
with Israel, but he says that will not happen until Israel agrees to a
complete freeze on settlement activity. His demand is backed by the
Despite President Abbas's triumphant speech,
the Fatah conference highlighted his weakness. The gathering has been
marred by internal squabbling, with the young generation accusing the
"old guard" of corruption and resisting change.
President Abbas rules the West Bank, he was ousted from the Gaza Strip
two years ago by the Islamic militant group Hamas. Hamas, which opposes
peace talks with Israel, barred Fatah members in Gaza from attending
the conference, charging that the government of Mr. Abbas is