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Barghouthi: Negotiations doomed to fail

Nov. 19, 2009 5:52 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 21, 2009 9:16 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an/Agencies - Negotiations with Israel will achieve nothing, jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi told Reuters in an interview published on Thursday.

Through written messages passed from the prison via his lawyer, Bargouthi urged Palestinians to embark on popular and diplomatic campaigns to achieve statehood, the news agency reported.

"Betting on negotiations alone was never our choice. I have always called for a constructive mix of negotiation, resistance, political, diplomatic and popular action," he said, according to Reuters.

Calling for a popular campaign against settlements, Bargouthi cited Israeli policies in Jerusalem, the Gaza blockade, land expropriation and Israel’s "racist" West Bank wall as indications talks would achieve little.

He also called on Hamas to sign a reconciliation agreement, which Fatah signed last month, that would end the two-year political crisis in Palestine that has left the Fatah-run Palestinian Authority in charge of the West Bank and Hamas' de facto government with Gaza.

Barghouthi termed the division "a crime against the nation" and unjustified.

"I do not see that there are fundamental political differences between Fatah and Hamas... "There is no excuse in the world that prevents national reconciliation, especially in light of the latest developments and the blocked horizon for negotiations," he said.

"In the shadow of the failure of negotiations and the absence of an Israeli partner for peace, the necessary strategy is firstly ending the division and restoring national unity," he added.

Palestinians view the popular Fatah leader as a political prisoner, often cited as a potential candidate to replace President Mahmoud Abbas, who announced last month he would step down at the end of his term.

Asked if he would run for president, Barghouti replied, "When national reconciliation is accomplished and there is agreement on holding elections, I will take the appropriate decision."

Bargouthi was sentenced to five life terms for leading Fatah's Tanzim paramilitary, but could be released in the event Hamas and Israel come to an agreement over the fate of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

German mediators are continuing to broker efforts to produce a prisoner swap, senior Hamas leader Usama Al-Muzeini told Ma'an on Wednesday. He said talks were "ongoing with German mediation and are overcoming obstacles."

Meanwhile, a Gaza charity linked to Hamas was reportedly offering 1.4 million dollars to Palestinians inside Israel for capturing an Israeli soldier who could be swapped for more of Israel's estimated 11,000 Palestinian prisoners.

The Associated Press said the Waad group, a prisoners' rights organization headed by the de facto government's interior minister, Fathi Hamad, considers the initiative a response to Israel's offer to pay Gazans for information on Shalit.
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