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PALESTINIAN SURPRISE (NY POST) By URI DAN JERUSALEM, ISRAEL 11/28/02) Source: http://www.nypost.com/news/worldnews/63140.htm NEW YORK POST NEW YORK POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
JERUSALEM - Yasser Arafat´s top deputy said the violent uprising against Israel has been a disaster for the Palestinians and must be stopped.

"What happened in these two years, as we see it now, is a complete destruction of everything we built," Abu Mazen told members of Arafat´s Fatah faction.

The comments from Mazen - a possible successor to Arafat - are the strongest denunciation by a senior Palestinian official of the uprising that has resulted in the deaths of more than 2,000 Palestinians and Israelis since it began in September 2000.

But the release of his remarks - which were made Oct. 24 but leaked Tuesday - raised suspicions that they were designed to undermine Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who faces a key political challenge today.

Mazen, also known as Mahmoud Abbas, is No. 2 in the Palestine Liberation Organization and has been frequently mentioned as a leading candidate to succeed the 73-year-old Arafat.

In his speech, to a meeting of Fatah activists in the Gaza Strip, Mazen said Palestinian activists had blundered their way into violence.

"Many people diverted the intifada [uprising] from its natural path and embarked on a path we can´t handle, with the use of weapons . . . such as mortars, grenades and shooting from houses and populated areas," he said.

But the uprising triggered a strong Israeli response which has left most West Bank towns under military control for months, he said.

"If we do a calculation of the gains and losses . . . we will see that without any doubt is that what we lost was big and what we gained was small," Mazen said.

"We should . . . ask ourselves where we are headed, not by beating ourselves up, but by reviewing the mistakes we have made."

Mazen didn´t lay blame but he charged: "Several factions don´t want a real [Palestinian] Authority. They want to destroy it and to replace it."

His comments were published Tuesday in Al Hayat, an Arabic-language daily based in London, and released by Mazen´s office yesterday.

Mazen said the turning of the intifada into a "military campaign" was based on the mistaken belief that it would topple Sharon. Instead it made Sharon "the most important Zionist leader."

His remarks appeared to encourage support for Amram Mitzna, the new leader of Israel´s Labor Party, who is running for prime minister on a platform of reopening talks with Arafat.

Sharon, who faces a primary challenge today from former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within his Likud Party, has said he would negotiate only after all violence is halted.

Mazen said he did not believe Sharon was serious and wants to call his bluff by halting attacks on Israelis.

U.S. officials said they were awaiting more details of Mazen´s remarks.

But Secretary of State Colin Powell said of the uprising, "I believe it clearly was a mistake. It hasn´t brought the Palestinian people any closer to a state of their own or to peace."

Arafat has indicated that Mazen and Abu Ala, the speaker of the Palestinian parliament, would share his responsibilities once he steps down.

Ala, also known as Ahmed Qureia, told Israeli Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg that Israel´s targeted killing of terrorists was making it hard to convince Palestinians to abandon their attacks.

"Israeli reaction like in the Jenin refugee camp last night, make the situation worse," he said, referring to Tuesday´s air attack that killed two militants high on Israel´s most-wanted list. With Post Wire Services (Copyright 2002 NYP Holdings, Inc. 11/28/02)




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