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Abbas rejects Arafat assassination claims

July 16, 2009 8:30 P.M. (Updated: July 18, 2009 9:23 A.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday denounced as lies recent allegations he had a role in the death of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

The claim was raised Tuesday in an interview on the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network by senior Fatah member Farouq Qaddoumi, who accused Abbas of involvement in an alleged plot to kill Arafat, who died mysteriously in 2004.

The allegations were "lies and fabricated stories intended to obstruct Fatah's sixth conference," Abbas said in a television interview, adding, "What has happened is that a bunch of fabricated lies have come out, which were deliberately timed" to coincide with the conference.

Fatah officials have been working on preparations for the sixth conference over the past year, and party leaders have frequently accused political and military foes of attempting to obstruct the event, which is seen by many as a major test of the movement's legitimacy. The conference is scheduled for August in the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

"Qaddoumi's issue will be followed up thoroughly on every level within Fatah," Abbas added. "He said that these stories are five years old. Then why didn't he publish this five years ago, if the information was confirmed and true?" Abbas asked, answering that "Qaddoumi himself knew it was false, but held off on these lies until he could obstruct the sixth conference."

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Wednesday night that he commissioned Attorney General Ahmed Al-Mughni to take legal procedures necessary to prosecute Al-Jazeera for a variety of offenses, although he did not specifically mention the Qaddoumi interview as one of them.

In the same interview on Thursday evening, Abbas spoke at length of his government's position toward negotiations with Israel, which he has accused of failing to abide by signed, internationally backed commitments with the Palestinians. He noted that even the UN Security Council has begun to back the Saudi Peace Initiative, which allows for every Arab and Muslim nation to normalize relations with Israel in exchange for a viable Palestinian state.

"Israel should commit to international legitimacy; otherwise, it will not achieve peace," Abbas said, going on to say that the country continues to ignore its previously signed commitments. He said the international community ought to "play a decisive role" in urging Israel to cooperate, and rejected the notion that the international community was placing serious demands on Israel other than that it comply with international law and its own agreements.

"We also do not repeat demands; these are commitments [agreed to by Israel] and when we speak of the Road Map, we are talking about commitments stated in the first article. There are commitments on the Israeli side and others on the Palestinian side," he said, addressing allegations that the Palestinians have somehow upped their demands, as Israel's foreign minister claimed a few days earlier.

The president also dismissed claims that he and his negotiators have refused to deal specifically with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who last week urged Abbas to visit Israel for peace talks. Abbas said, "We have dealt with every Israeli government chosen by the Israelis, but this is never discussed."

In regard to Palestinian unity talks, Abbas said that his government was adamant about "reaching a solution on all final status issues, reaching a national conciliation with Hamas and others to establish an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. This is a non-negotiable issue." He suggested that the best way to end the division was to simply hold elections on their set date, which he maintains is January 2010 while Hamas and others insist the vote should have been held a year earlier.

"We call for holding the upcoming elections under the sponsorship and monitoring of Arab countries, to be held in the West Bank and Gaza," the president added.
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