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Palestinian PM Denounces Latest Attacks Against Israelis - 2003-06-09

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has condemned the latest armed Palestinian attacks against Israelis. He has also ruled out using force against Palestinian groups for fear this could drag Palestinian society into a civil war.

Mr. Abbas denounced the killing of five Israeli soldiers by Palestinian armed groups on Sunday.

Israeli troops later killed all five attackers in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.

Addressing a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, he said he was against all such forms of violence. But he said he still insists on consultation with Palestinian groups, not confrontation.

Speaking to reporters at his offices before the news conference, Mr. Abbas said force would not be used against armed Palestinian groups because this might result in a Palestinian civil war.

Hamas broke off ceasefire talks with Mr. Abbas last week, following his conciliatory speech at the summit in Jordan with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush.

Hamas expressed anger that Mr. Abbas had condemned Palestinian terrorism, but had not called for Israel to end its armed operations inside the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Abbas said that in fact his address had been worked out in consultation with the Palestinian leadership and in particular Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Meanwhile, Mr. Sharon was also facing a backlash over the summit in Jordan. He was heavily criticized by some speakers, including members of his own government, at a rowdy convention of his ruling Likud Party Sunday in Jerusalem.

Mr. Sharon defended his support for the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace in the Middle East, saying there would be no settlement of the conflict with the Palestinians without painful concessions.

On Monday, his government gave the order to start the process of dismantling some Jewish outposts in the West Bank, in line with his pledge at the summit in Jordan.

An new opinion poll indicates that a majority of Israelis want him to go further and evacuate a large number of Jewish settlements as part of a final peace treaty with the Palestinians.