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Last Updated: Monday, 25 July 2005, 17:21 GMT 18:21 UK
Abbas moves to Gaza for pullout
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Abbas wants to make sure the withdrawal is not bloody
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has announced he is moving his office to Gaza until the completion of Israel's withdrawal from the territory.

He said he would be co-ordinating the Palestinian side of the withdrawal, and mediating between different factions.

The run-up to the pullout has seen renewed clashes involving militants, Palestinian police and Israeli forces.

Israel, which has occupied Gaza since 1967, plans to start evacuating all 21 settlements in about three weeks' time.

Mediator

Mr Abbas has been based in Ramallah in the West Bank, since his election following the death of Yasser Arafat.

"I'm going now to Gaza to stay for the entire disengagement period to follow all the details about the disengagement from Gaza," Mr Abbas told Palestinian radio.

"I will have contact with all the Palestinian parties."

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says Mr Abbas has clearly decided he needs to be at the centre of the action, co-ordinating the Palestinian side of the process.

Our correspondent says the Palestinian leader will be trying to persuade militants to stick to an unofficial ceasefire and refrain from attacking the departing Israelis.

Hamas gunmen have been involved in clashes with Palestinian Authority security forces after the militants launched rocket attacks on Israel.

That is perhaps another good reason for Mr Abbas to base himself here through what may be a hot and difficult political summer, says our correspondent.

He adds that Mr Abbas wants the pullout to lead to fresh peace talks with Israel and further withdrawals from occupied land.

But he says that is less likely to happen if the Gaza withdrawal is a bloody and bitter affair.


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