Abbas seeks international help after Sharon brush-off

Date: 06-22-05

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas tried to rally international support after coming away with no tangible results from a humiliating summit with Israel's Ariel Sharon, who lectured him at length over militant violence.

Officials said Abbas spent the night after Tuesday's summit working the phones to world leaders, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Jordan's King Abdullah II and Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) informed Dr Rice about the results from the summit" and discussed the "continuation of the American role in the peace process", said one source.

Rice has herself raised the possibility of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan playing a greater role in the Middle East diplomatic quartet, currently restricted to the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States.

"I think you will probably see the quartet engage the three major regional actors," said Rice in Riyadh earlier this week.

But as the dust settled on the Jerusalem summit, Palestinians voiced exasperation over the Israeli premier's hardline attitude.

Palestinian prime minister Ahmed Qorei said Sharon made no attempt to negotiate but instead chose to dictate.

"Sharon dealt with us using a logic of force" rather than negotiation, Qorei said on a visit to the West Bank city of Nablus. "He rejected most of our demands that we drew up."

The Palestinians had hoped for confidence-building gestures such as the release of more prisoners and the handover of security control in more areas of the West Bank but found Sharon in no mood for concessions.

After hectoring Abbas over violence by the likes of Islamic Jihad, which has been involved in a number of deadly recent attacks despite allegiance to a de facto truce, Sharon made clear any progress in the peace process was dependent on the factions being brought to heel.

"We see many good intentions on the part of the Palestinian Authority, however, unfortunately, at the same time, there is no concrete preventative action," he said in a post-summit speech.

The Israeli press concluded that the former general had undermined the moderate Abbas.

"He pounded on the table, reprimanded, explained matters to Abu Mazen like a division commander talking to a young company commander at the conclusion of a failed battalion exercise," said the Maariv daily.

Israel's arrests of some 50 Jihad members had not augured well and an Israeli spy plane fired two missiles in the group's Gaza stronghold as the summit began.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra confirmed that the strike was an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate a Jihad member, the first targeted killing operation in months.

On Wednesday, another missile strike hit the Beit Lahiya region, wiping out a Palestinian rocket launcher.

The detention of 11 more Jihad followers overnight underlined that Sharon has lost his faith in Abbas's ability to keep order.

One Jihad leader, Khaled al-Batsh, told AFP that any killing by Israel of any leader or Jihad officer would "mark an end to the calm and a return to resistance".

Palestinian Authority spokesman, Nabil Abu Rudeina, warned that a return to targeted killings would "endanger the truce and have consequences on the entire peace process".

On a positive note, Israeli and Palestinian security officials met late Wednesday in Tel Aviv as part of efforts to coordinate this summer's Israeli withdrawal of troops and settlers from the Gaza Strip, the army said.

It said the meeting between General Yitzhak Harel, the army's planning department chief, and Palestinian interior minister General Jamal Abu Ziyad was held in a "positive atmosphere".

But Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom warned that Israeli troops could move back into Gaza to pursue Palestinian militants if they continue to carry out attacks after the pullout which is due to start in mid-August.

"If, after the withdrawal from Gaza, attacks are carried out against Israeli towns such as Ashkelon (a southern city close to Gaza), the Tsahal (Israeli army) will have the right to react and in this instance can return to Gaza to restore order," Shalom told diplomats in Jerusalem.



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