Abbas wants US to push Israel on 'road map'

The Palestinian prime minister said on Tuesday he would ask US officials during his trip to Washington to press Israel to implement its side of the peace process.

    Palestinian premier (L) hopes President Bush will press Israel to release all political prisoners

    Due to meet US President, George W Bush, on Friday Mahmoud Abbas said he would ask the Americans "to exert pressure on Israel to carry out its commitments and play its role in implementing the road map."  The US-authored peace plan calls for a Palestinian state the be established by 2005.

    The Palestinian Premier spoke to reporters in Cairo after talks with Amr Mussa, Secretary General of the Arab league. 

    "All the demands of the Palestinian people, such as the release of prisoners and the lifting of the blockade (on the Palestinian territories), will be discussed with the Americans," Abbas said.

    The Palestinians have demanded the release of all of their prisoners, estimated to number more than 6,000.  They have also demanded Israel end its siege around Yasser Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah, lift the economic closure of the territories and commit to further troop withdrawals.

    Israel restricts releases

    The Palestinian premier has been under intense pressure from armed groups to secure prisoner releases after he persuaded them to observe a three-month ceasefire agreement on 29 June.

    Israel then redeployed its troops from some territory it had reoccupied in the past three years of the intifada.

    Sharon refuses to free detainees
    with 'blood on their hands'

    But the Israeli coalition government, under pressure from its rightwing members, has baulked at freeing Palestinians it links to acts of violence. Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, has said none of those with "blood on their hands" will be eligible.

    Abbas said his talks with Sharon last Sunday tackled the subject of prisoner releases and that he had agreed with Sharon to "study a timetable" for future Israeli troop withdrawals.

    But the Abbas-Sharon meeting collapsed over the issue of freeing members of groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, whom Israel regards as terrorists. The groups have threatened to end their ceasefire if their members are not released.

    The talks were described as a "shouting match" by Israeli Army radio, quoting sources close to the meeting who said that the two prime ministers had been screaming at each other. 

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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