Abbas wants peace talks with Sharon after poll
NABLUS: Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that he considers Israeli leader Ariel Sharon a partner for peace talks and called for an immediate resumption of negotiations after the Palestinian election.
It was the latest sign that Abbas, the front-runner in the race, plans to reach out to Israel after Sunday’s election, despite a series of recent hard-line speeches and campaign appearances with Palestinian gunmen.
“After the elections, we will start negotiations,” Abbas told a news conference in Nablus, the West Bank’s largest city.
Asked whether Sharon is a partner, Abbas said: “Ariel Sharon is an elected leader and we will negotiate with him. We will put the road map on the table and say that we are ready to implement it completely,” he said.
The road map, a peace plan calling for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, has been stalled for more than a year. “I can’t say that Ariel Sharon is not a partner, but whether or not he is serious we will explore it,” he added.
Israeli authorities decided on Wednesday to let a jailed Palestinian revolt leader out of his isolation cell on Wednesday in what appeared to be a goodwill gesture ahead of Palestinian elections, security sources said.
They said Internal Security Minister Gideon Ezra told the Prisons Service to move Marwan Barghouthi, who is serving five life terms after being convicted of orchestrating Palestinian militant attacks, to be moved in with other security inmates. It was not immediately clear when the order would be implemented at Ohalei Keidar prison in southern Israel. Barghouthi has been held in isolation since he was seized in an Israeli military sweep of the West Bank in 2002.
Meanwhile, Israeli troops shot and killed on Thursday a Hamas militant who attacked a Jewish settlement in the Gaza Strip, the army and Palestinian officials said.
The Hamas militant, who was not immediately identified, fired at troops carrying out a routine patrol along the perimeter of the Jewish settlement of Ganei Tal. A gunbattle erupted, and the soldiers killed the gunman, the army said. agencies