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Abbas Re-Elected Leader of Palestinian Fatah Party

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."

The 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 United States.

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.

And while 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 illegitimate.