Abbas talks with Fatah before summit

The Palestinian Authority leader has held talks with Fatah members days before he meets Israel's prime minister, and a resistance group said three of its leaders had been arrested by Palestinian police.

    Security forces guard the entrance of the Gaza meeting

    Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazin, on Saturday met with more than 100 members of his Fatah party's revolutionary council, and a top aide said the aim of the summit on Tuesday was to declare a mutual ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis. 

    "The revolutionary council of Fatah is holding an important meeting in the presence of Abu Mazin to discuss the summit, political and security questions and the results of contacts with Israel," said Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaina. 

    "We intend to work so that a mutual ceasefire can be declared between the Palestinians and Israelis at the Sharm al-Shaikh summit," he said. 

    "We are also demanding the liberation of 8000 Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and hope to be able to sort out the differences in this respect in 48 hours," he added. 

    Palestinian disappointment

    Abbas has called for an end to
    armed struggle against Israel

    A group of senior Israeli ministers has approved the release of 900 Palestinian prisoners, with the first 500 to be freed soon after the summit. It has also cleared an army pullback from five West Bank cities and the transfer of security control to the Palestinians. 

    But the Palestinians have expressed disappointment at the prisoner offer, both in terms of numbers and criteria. In particular, they are pushing for the release of those jailed before the 1993 Oslo accords. 

    The summit, to be held in the Egyptian resort of Sharm al-Shaikh on Tuesday, has fuelled hopes that the Middle East peace process is moving back on track and coincides with a visit to the region by new US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. 

    Israeli strength

    It will be the first time top Israeli and Palestinian leaders have met since 2000, with Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert saying Israel was "strong enough to take risks" in its negotiations with the Palestinians. 

    "All our security officials believe important changes have taken place within the Palestinian Authority because it's the first time a Palestinian leader opposes terrorism"

    Ehud Olmert,
    deputy prime minister

    Israeli public radio said top Sharon adviser Dov Weisglass was to travel to Cairo on Sunday to establish common ground between Israel and the Palestinians before the summit. 

    Abbas has publicly called for an end to the armed struggle against Israel while seeking to seal a ceasefire by resistance groups, earning praise for his security clampdown from leading Israeli officials. 

    "All our security officials believe important changes have taken place within the Palestinian Authority because it's the first time a Palestinian leader opposes terrorism," Olmert told public radio. 

    "It's now up to them to prove that they are capable of implementing what they promised," Olmert said. 

    Three arrested

    Palestinian security forces arrested three resistance leaders of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the group said.

    "Issam Abu Dakka, Talal Abu Zarifa and Ziad Jarghun, three DFLP leaders, were detained in the Gaza Strip on Saturday morning by preventive security," a statement said.

    "These were political arrests which run counter to national unity and follow pressure from the United States and Israel. We demand the release of our comrades."

    The DFLP called on fellow resistance groups to express their opposition to such arrests to the Palestinian leadership.



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