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Abbas condemns suicide bombing as another obstacle to peace
The Associated Press (apwire)     Print Article 
Published 2006-03-31 22:50 (KST)   
By CLARE NULLIS

CAPE TOWN, South Africa

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Friday condemned a suicide bombing carried out by a militant offshoot of his Fatah movement as an obstacle to his hopes for persuading Israel to resume talks.

''We as the Palestinian Authority do not accept it. We condemn it and we do not think it will help the peace process,'' Abbas said at a news conference following a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki.

''We as Palestinians want to live in peace and stability and security, side by side with Israelis,'' he said through an interpreter.

The Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades on Thursday carried out its first suicide bombing since a February 2005 truce,killing four Israelis.

Israeli security officials say they expect Fatah militants to step up such attacks in a bid to restore some influence following the rise to power of its Hamas rivals.

Abbas' long ruling Fatah party was defeated in January elections by the Islamic militant Hamas movement, which formed a Cabinet this week. Abbas, a moderate who still wields effective control over foreign policy, said he would continue to work with the Israeli government on a daily basis and said that he also wanted the new Hamas-led government to do the same.

This is considered unlikely given that Hamas has so far refused to recognize the Israeli state or renounce violence and is regarded by many world powers as a terrorist group.

But Abbas said Israel should not use the Islamic militant group's election victory to justify a clampdown against Palestinians.

''It is unacceptable to use the victory of Hamas in the elections ... as an excuse to increase the Israeli aggression against our people and punish our people for its democratic choice,'' Abbas said in a speech to the South African parliament.

''We call on the Israeli government to sit down and start political negotiations. Unilateral decisions will not help to solve the problems,'' he said.

He also said it would be wrong for the international community to cut off aid to Palestinians to pressurize the new government.

''The Palestinian people should not be punished because they have chosen democracy,'' he said. ''There is no logic for the United States and some Western governments to cut off funding for Palestinian people.'' South Africa is one of the few countries that has invited Hamas leaders to visit, though no date has been set for the meeting.

Russia also held talks with a visiting Hamas delegation.

Mbeki said that the invitation had been issued before Hamas won the elections. He said that a South African delegation led by its deputy foreign minister and intelligence ministers would travel to thePalestinian territories next week and that he himself had accepted an invitation to visit.

On Thursday, Mbeki offered his nation's ''unconditional acceptance'' of the legitimacy of the Hamas-led government, but urged it to recognize Israel. At Friday's press conference he reiterated his view that the only solution was for two separate, independent Israeli and Palestinian states.

South Africa enjoys good relations with Israel _ ties that were cultivated by the white government in the apartheid era _ and with the Palestinian Authority, thanks to the liberation struggle ties between the African National Congress and the Palestinian Liberation Organization.

Abbas said that the new democratic South Africa served as a role model for Palestinians striving for an independent state. And he said that South Africans who suffered under white racist rule should be able to empathize with Palestinians today.

''Whoever among you has visited Palestine and has seen the extent of the suffering,discrimination, injustice and oppression, remembers the worst days of racial discrimination in your past,'' he said.
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter The Associated Press

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