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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 December, 2004, 23:57 GMT
Abbas calls for end to violence
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas is laying out his strategy
Mahmoud Abbas, the favourite to succeed Yasser Arafat as Palestinian leader, has called on his people to stop fighting Israel.

Mr Abbas said Palestinians had a legitimate right "to express their rejection of the occupation by popular and social means".

But he said: "Using weapons Is harmful and has got to stop."

Correspondents say the rejection of violence in favour of negotiation marks a break with the Arafat strategy.

Mr Abbas, the PLO executive committee chairman, made his comments in the pan-Arab Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, based in London.

I believe the consensus of the Palestinian people contradicts these statements
Hamas spokesman

Asked about his comments later, he said: "At this stage we are against militarising the uprising, because we want to negotiate. And because we want to negotiate, the atmosphere should be calm in preparation for political action."

A moderate member of the old guard that surrounded Arafat, Mr Abbas has the tacit support of Israel and Washington.

Since the withdrawal of popular jailed militant leader Marwan Barghouti from the elections on 9 January, Mr Abbas has been the clear frontrunner in the race.

But his attempts to court militant groups and establish a ceasefire in the occupied territories leading up to the election have so far failed, with Hamas calling on its supporters to boycott the poll.

Targeted retaliation

"I believe the consensus of the Palestinian people contradicts these statements," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri of Mr Abbas remarks.

And violence continues.

On Sunday militants launched their deadliest attack on Israeli troops since May, killing five in a raid.

Israel has ordered targeted retaliation.

On Tuesday, a Thai worker on a Jewish settlement in Ganei Tal in southern Gaza was killed by a rocket fired by militants.

Also in Gaza, Israeli troops shot three Palestinian security officers in Rafah, killing one and wounding two.

Israel and the Palestinians



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