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Abbas: Israel ´dreaming´ on right of return for refugees (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH 05/04/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/A/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1052015030741
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Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) said Sunday he wanted to meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss the road map plan for peace in the Middle East.
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Abbas said he rejected Israel´s "prerogatives" regarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees. "This is one of Israel´s dreams (giving up the right of return)," he added. "The right of return, or the issue of the refugees, is part of the final status issues and we shouldn´t be talking about them now."
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He reiterated his assertion that the issue of the refugees should be solved on the basis of UN resolution 194 and Arab peace initiatives.
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His remarks on the issue of the refugees are seen as an attempt to appease critics who have accused him of relinquishing the right of return.
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Speaking to Palestinian journalists in Ramallah for the first time since he was sworn in as prime minister, Abbas said: "I certainly want to meet with him (Sharon) and to discuss with the Israeli government, which is the first and primary address, the different issues."
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He added that he had sent "signals" expressing his readiness for a preparatory meeting with Israelis, to be followed with a meeting with Sharon himself. "We want to discuss ways of cooperation and implementing the road map plan," he said.
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"We want to know what are the mutual commitments which would be carried fulfilled by both sides. We are waiting for a response."
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Abbas said he wants to hear the official Israeli position on the road map from Sharon. "If he says yes to the road map, then I don´t care who says no," he explained.
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Abbas said he was aware of different points of view in Israel regarding the road map, adding that this issue doesn´t concern the Palestinians. He stressed that the Palestinians would not accept any preconditions for implementing the road map.
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He called on the Israeli government to implement the road map as it is, saying the Palestinians reject Sharon´s demand to introduce changes in the plan.
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The Palestinian Authority also has reservations on the road map although it has accepted it, Abbas said.
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On the internal front, the Palestinian prime minister said he was determined to disarm Palestinian militias. "There is one authority and there won´t be weapons in the hands of any other authority," he said. "We won´t allow any other weapons other than those which are in the hands of the Palestinian Authority and that are used to defend the Palestinian people."
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Nonetheless, he affirmed that his administration would do its utmost to avert a Palestinian civil war. He said he would embark on a dialogue with the different Palestinian factions in an attempt to convince them to surrender their weapons.
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"The PA alone has the right to decide on peace or war," he concluded. "The PA alone has the right to decide who would carry a rifle and when." (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 05/04/03)
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