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Mofaz, Dahlan to meet for second security meeting (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press 01/31/05 13:54 (GMT+2)Source: http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/534230.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is scheduled to discuss security preparations in a meeting Monday evening with Palestinian negotiator and former security cheif Mohammed Dahlan, their second session in three days, Israeli defense officials said.

Mofaz and Dahlan are expected to complete preparations for a handover of security control to the Palestinians in several West Bank towns and a possible release of hundreds of Palestinian security prisoners held by Israel.

Abbas to ask Sharon to release 8,000 prisoners

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas will ask Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to release 8,000 jailed Palestinians in their summit next week, Army Radio reported Monday.

Quoting a report in the London-based Asharq al-Awsat, the radio said Abbas would also push for a withdrawal of IDF forces to the lines held prior to the September 2000 eruption of the intifada.

Abbas also plans to ask for Israeli-Palestinian coordination in the implementation of Sharon´s disengagement plan, initially envisioned as a unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and four West Bank settlements, according to the report.

It also quoted aides to Abbas as saying the meeting between the two leaders would not deal with resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Abbas meets with Russian officials in Moscow

Abbas met with top Russian officials Monday in a bid to win Moscow´s support in upcoming peace talks with Israel, and President Vladimir Putin expressed hope that the new leader would be able to jump-start solutions to Palestinians´ intractable problems.

"Life in the region goes on, and in Palestine there are many problems that have been waiting to be resolved for decades," Putin told Abbas at the start of a Kremlin meeting. "We strongly hope that you, Mr. Chairman, will be able to take steps toward improving the situation in respect to Israel as well as the socioeconomic situation in Palestine. We are ready to work actively as before together with the international community to help solve all these problems."

Abbas expressed gratitude to Russia and said it could be critical in helping achieve what he called "a historic chance for peace."

"We hope that the position of Russia, the support and help given both on the bilateral basis and as part of the quartet of international mediators, will have a decisive importance for reaching a comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East," Abbas said.

Earlier Monday, he told Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov that he had done everything to make Moscow his first foreign destination outside the Mideast region following his election earlier this month.

"It shows the respect the Palestinian people feel toward the Russian people and it shows the important role that Russia plays on the world arena, above all in the Middle East, namely in the quartet, in which Russia is a most notable representative," Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, said through a translator.

The so-called quartet seeking Mideast peace also includes the United States, the United Nations and the European Union.

Later in the day, Abbas met with Boris Gryzlov, the speaker of the lower house of parliament.

"We have always supported you in your difficult fight for independence," Gryzlov told Abbas. "Today we are seeing quite favorable conditions for a peaceful settlement."

Abbas´ trip comes amid renewed hopes for peace after a sharp drop in violence between Israel and the Palestinians, and the Foreign Ministry said his talks with Lavrov would focus on peace efforts.

Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said that Abbas had begun resolute efforts to reform Palestinian power structures, including security agencies, and to stem extremist and terrorist activity, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

"The new Palestinian administration is working on the provision of order in the Palestinian territories and the containment of terrorists," it quoted him as saying.

Yakovenko said topics at the talks would also include bilateral relations, Iraq and democratization and reforms in the Middle East, ITAR-Tass reported.

Russia has traditionally played a secondary role to Washington in Mideast peacemaking. A Cold War-era supporter of the Palestinians, Moscow´s relations with Israel have improved significantly since the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Arab nations have expressed an interest in a stronger Russian role in the Middle East. Visiting Moscow last week, Syrian President Bashar Assad played up Russia´s clout on the world stage and won a write-off of most of his country´s multimillion-dollar debt to Moscow.

Russia´s Gazeta daily suggested Monday that Abbas´s trip showed that the Palestinian leader intended Russia to be his ally in talks with Israel. The paper noted that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was set to meet U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"This way both sides have demonstrated which of the peace process- sponsoring states they are putting their stake on and whom they regard as their allies," the paper said.

Abbas, who received his doctorate from Moscow State University, told Gryzlov that he has warm memories from his student days here. Russian media report that Abbas speaks some Russian and is involved in a Russian-Palestinian friendship association. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 01/31/05)

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