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Palestinian Fatah Faction Endorses Peace Process, Armed Resistance


Palestinians leaders in the West Bank are winding up a conference with a mixed message of war and peace. The gathering has aroused concern in Israel.

The Palestinian Fatah movement endorsed the peace process with Israel, but reserved the right to return to armed resistance. The party platform was approved at the first Fatah convention in 20 years and the first on Palestinian soil. It took place in the biblical West Bank town of Bethlehem.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat says Israel must return all of the territory captured during the Six Day War in 1967.

"Fatah wants peace, but peace cannot be attained without Israel withdrawing to the '67 borders, establishing a Palestinian state on the '67 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital - two states living side by side," he said.

Israel denounced the call for armed resistance as an incitement to violence.

Israeli Defense Minister, Ehud Barak said "The rhetoric that we have heard from the Fatah conference is disturbing and not very promising."

Israel urged the Palestinians to return to peace talks, but Fatah officials said that will not happen until Israel freezes all settlement activity -- a demand that is backed by the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has ruled out a settlement freeze on the fourth anniversary of Israel's pullout from the Gaza Strip. Israel dismantled 21 Gaza settlements and evacuated 8,000 Jewish residents. But Mr. Netanyahu says Gaza became a terror base for the Islamic militant group Hamas.

Analysts say dismantling settlements on the West Bank is an essential element of any final peace agreement. But Mr. Netanyahu says that will not happen. "We will not create new evacuees," he said, and "we will not make the same mistake again."

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