Abu Mazen: Free Terrorists, Barghouti, Get Peace

Israel National News - December 26, 2004

[INN.com] - Abu Mazen officially launched his campaign to succeed Yasser Arafat Saturday and said Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders and freeing jailed terrorists are pre-conditions for renewed talks.

The Fatah party candidate for president of the Palestinian Authority had said previously that he was willing to talk with Israel without any pre-conditions. "We cannot compromise on Jerusalem. There will be no real peace without Israel's releasing Arab prisoners," including jailed terrorist Marwan Barghouti, said Abu Mazen in Ramallah.

Abu Mazen has taken an increasingly hard stance since taking over as acting PA chairman after Yasser Arafat's death. While touring Arab countries to gather support for demands he spoke only in general terms, promising to negotiate with Israel. One factor in his increasingly extreme statements is the mounting popularity of other terrorist groups, particularly Hamas, which won big in the recent municipal elections within the PA. He also was being challenged in polls by Barghouti, until he agreed to quit the race, ostensibly in return for a tougher stance by Abu Mazen.

The candidate has more than supplied the goods, adding on Saturday the demand to release the jailed terrorist himself, who was convicted of orchestrating several murderous attacks on Israelis. Concerning more than three million Arabs living in Arab countries and who claim Israel as their home, he demanded a solution to the matter, which he termed "important and dangerous."

"We will not withdraw from our demands for peace based on justice," he told hundreds of supporters. "Without justice, there will be no peace. If there will be peace here, there will be peace in the Mideast and in the rest of the world."

Abu Mazen also cast doubt on the Israeli government's proposed plan to dismantle 25 Jewish communities and transfer the land to Arabs. "Do you think withdrawal will take place as Israelis say," he asked.

Knesset Member Hami Doron (Shinui) sharply denounced Abu Mazen's remarks, saying "he should concentrate his political campaign on the duty of the Palestinian Authority under international agreements instead of adding fuel to the fire... Barghouti was convicted according to Israeli law, and we will not give in to ultimatums."

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