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PLO chief blasts Qatari 'political campaign'

Jan. 24, 2011 12:51 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 27, 2011 9:43 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- PLO executive committee member Yasser Abed Rabbo on Monday blasted the Emir of Qatar over documents leaked by the Doha-based Al-Jazeera TV network covering a decade of Israel-Palestinian negotiations.

According to documents released Sunday, chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erakat offered Israel huge concessions, including "the biggest Yerushalayim [Jerusalem] in history" during 2008 negotiations.

The documents, dubbed the Palestine Papers, reveal details of the Palestinian Authority's security cooperation with Israel and PLO offers of compromises on refugees' right to return, according to Al-Jazeera's website.

In a press conference in Ramallah, Abed Rabbo said Al-Jazeera's release of the documents was a political campaign directed by Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

"We thank the Emir of Qatar for giving Al-Jazeera the green light to start this campaign, because it can't be the responsibility of [Al-Jazeera director general] Wadah Khanfar alone."

Further, he suggested that the Qatari royal should extend the climate of transparency to his own state and reveal his true relations with Iran and Israel.

PLO official attacks Al-Jazeera

Abed Rabbo accused Al-Jazeera of falsifying the documents, changing the text and adding pictures of people who were not involved with talks.

Further, he complained that the channel worked on the Palestine Papers for two months without seeking the Palestinian point of view.

Continuing his attack on the network, he said Al-Jazeera was trying to imitate the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks after a failed attempt to buy it.

The PLO official condemned the timing of the release, and said it coincided with a campaign by the Israeli government against President Mahmoud Abbas.

He accused the news network of carrying out a similar campaign against late President Yasser Arafat.

The documents were leaked by a junior member of the Palestinian negotiations department, Abed Rabbo said. He called for an independent committee to be formed to study the authenticity of the papers.

Responding to a journalist's question, he said the Palestinian Authority would not target Al-Jazeera's West Bank offices or pursue the network's correspondents.

Abed-Rabbo's reaction was echoed by PLO chief Saeb Erakat.

"We don't have anything to hide," Erakat told AFP by telephone from Cairo on Monday, insisting the revelations had been "taken out of context and contain lies."

"Al-Jazeera's information is full of distortions and fraud," he said.

Abbas: Arab leaders knew our position

Abbas, who is currently in the Egyptian capital for talks with senior officials, insisted that the PA had shared every development in the peace process with the Arab world's leadership.

"With everything we have done -- in terms of activities with the Israelis or the Americans -- we have given the Arabs details," the president said in remarks published by official PA news agency Wafa.

"I don't know where Al-Jazeera got these secret things from, and there is nothing hidden from the Arab brothers," he added, adding that Arab nations were kept up to date through the 22-member Arab League based in Cairo.

The leaks prompted a furious response from Gaza's Hamas rulers, who have long decried peace talks with Israel. Its spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said they showed the PA's "ugly face" and "level of its cooperation with the occupation."

Deputized Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Ahmad Bahar said the leaks were "a scandal for the PA and a national disaster by all measures."

The senior Hamas official said the information was not a surprise due to informal leaks about negotiations, but said the documents were valuable -- particularly the PLO minutes of meetings with Israel.

No-one could doubt the validity or credibility of the information, he added.

Washington said it was reviewing the documents, with State Department spokesman Philip Crowley saying: "We cannot vouch for their veracity" in a Twitter post.

The remaining papers are to be revealed by Al-Jazeera and the Guardian in daily stages. They reveal "the unyielding confidence of Israeli negotiators," according to the Guardian.

The leaked documents were "drawn up by PA officials and lawyers working for the British-funded PLO negotiations support unit and include extensive verbatim transcripts of private meetings," it said.

Many of them had been "independently authenticated by the Guardian and corroborated by former participants in the talks and intelligence and diplomatic sources."

AFP contributed to this report
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