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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 July 2007, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Freed BBC reporter thanks Abbas
Alan Johnston (left) thanks Mahmoud Abbas
Alan Johnston thanked all Palestinians for their help
BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has met Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to thank him for helping to free him from 114 days in captivity in Gaza.

He met Mr Abbas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, a day after he was freed in a deal between his kidnappers, the Army of Islam, and the Hamas movement.

Mr Abbas has led an emergency cabinet since Hamas ousted his Fatah movement in Gaza last month.

Meanwhile a group of UK MPs called for international engagement with Hamas.

Twenty MPs from all parties signed a motion in the House of Commons calling for a new relationship with the group following its role in securing the journalist's release.

The motion said international support for Mr Abbas should not preclude contact with Hamas.

'With all my heart'

Mr Johnston was met at the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah by Mr Abbas and the new interim prime minister, Salam Fayyad.

I have also come to the West Bank to say thank you so much, really with all my heart, for all the Palestinians here
Alan Johnston

Afterwards, Mr Johnston said he had wanted to thank the president personally for all his efforts.

"I was aware of how much he was doing to try to secure my release," he said.

"But I have also come to the West Bank to say thank you so much, really with all my heart, for all the Palestinians here, especially the civil society organisations, and especially the journalists of the West Bank, in Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah who campaigned so often and so passionately to try to secure my release."

A senior figure in Mr Abbas's Fatah movement, Saeb Erekat, told the BBC that the whole of the Palestinian community was glad that Mr Johnston had been released.

"This was a despicable act - abducting the only Western journalist that is covering the story of Gaza," he told the World Today.

"This was a shameful thing to all of us as Palestinians, but we are very happy that this ordeal is over."

Mr Erekat called for Mr Johnston's kidnappers to be punished.

"I'm glad it is behind us and we hope that those who took Alan Johnston, abducted him, should be brought to justice and we hope that Palestinians would realise the extent of the damage done to us."





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