Fatah Denies Request To Postpone Conference

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A FATAH spokesperson denied on Sunday that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) intends to ask Washington to postpone the US-sponsored conference on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict planned for November.

The announcement comes two days before US Secretary of State, Condoleeza rice, arrives in Jerusalem to garner support for the planned meeting.

Ahmad Abdul Rahman, Fatah’s official spokesperson, denied a report in the Israeli daily Jerusalem Post indicating that the PNA wants to delay the meeting because Palestinians ‘are not ready to strike a deal’ on so-called final status issues such as borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

‘The conference is a Palestinian urgent demand, and the Palestinian National Authority will not ask for a delay of that conference as it represents a crucial stage and an opportunity to unify Palestinian demands,’ Rahman said.

The governments of Egypt and Saudi Arabia have also expressed scepticism about the conference.

Even Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas has voiced his concern about the lack of a specific agenda for the meeting, or even a firm date.

For his part, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been publicly attempting to lower expectations for the planned conference.

The Prime Minister has backed away from any initial enthusiasm, calling Sunday for a nonbinding ‘declaration’ of intention rather than an ‘agreement of principles.’

The Palestinian side has demanded a more ambitious discussion of final status issues.

Responding to the possibility that Saudi Arabia may not attend the conference, Rahman said: ‘Saudi Arabia was very clear. They wanted a conference which can fulfil Arab hopes for achieving peace.

‘What the Saudis announced was a call for the US and Israel to make efforts to have a real conference which can achieve just and comprehensive peace for all Arab sides.’

Meanwhile, Mushir al-Masri, secretary of the parliamentary bloc of the Hamas Movement at the Palestinian Legislative Council, has said that he expects the crisis with the Fatah Movement to be resolved soon.

He said: ‘King Abdallah Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, custodian of the two holy places, stressed his keenness on holding dialogue between Fatah and Hamas and expressed his willingness to make moves in the direction of achieving reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.’

Al-Masri revealed that there are ‘field contacts between the leaderships and cadres of the Fatah and Hamas movements in Gaza.’

He noted: ‘Meetings are held constantly between Hisham Abd-al-Raziq, former minister of prisoners’ affairs, and Ahmad Hillis, member of the Revolutionary Council of the Fatah Movement, on the one hand, and leaderships in the Hamas Movement or representatives of the Executive Force, on the other.’

He added that ‘these contacts are of a field nature.

‘They do not have a political character and they are not related to reconciliation between the two movements.

‘Rather, they are talks between the two sides to examine the method of achieving calm and stability in the Palestinian arena.’

On the possibility that these talks will develop to include political aspects, Al-Masri said: ‘The leaders of Fatah lack the will-power.

‘For those of them who have the will-power, they are afraid of exercising this will-power based on their convictions, because they know very well the fate, which they could face as a result of their violation of the general framework of the movement and which is exclusion, at least, in addition to the distortion campaigns they will face.’

On the criticisms levelled at the Hamas Movement recently for pursuing an ‘iron fist policy,’ Al-Masri said: ‘There is no iron fist. All practices of the police and Executive Force agencies are meant to face the riots, which are organised based on higher orders from Ramallah.’

He added: ‘The Ramallah group is trying to export chaos to Gaza.

‘Prayers are now politicised. The biggest evidence is that the throwing of stones and the attack on the official establishments, led by the Legislative Council, happened only after the Friday prayer.

‘We used the method of showing firmness only after we sent several messages to the effect that there are red lines, which we will not allow to be crossed.’

As evidence of this, Al-Masri pointed to the strike of doctors in Gaza.

He said that this strike ‘was staged upon orders from Ramallah.’ He added: ‘The doctors who were arrested informed us that they received instructions from Ramallah and that their role is confined to implementing these instructions.’

He noted that ‘the Executive Force has arrested dozens of people in Gaza, most of whom were arrested after the demonstrations . . . However, when Zakariya al-Agha, a leader in Fatah, was detained for two hours, a hue and cry was raised, while hundreds of leaders from Hamas are held in the Authority’s prisons, which include more than 800 prisoners from our cadres.’

On the criticisms of Hamas by the Palestinian forces, which are represented in the PLO factions, Al-Masri said that ‘the majority of the PLO factions are pro-Fatah par excellence.

‘In fact, the Fatah Movement uses some of these factions as a tool for it in many situations.’

He added: ‘The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, PFLP is the most balanced faction and it has many memorable stands.

‘However, its criticisms of Hamas harm the PFLP’s neutrality and balance. In fact, its recent position reflects its flagrant bias towards the Fatah Movement.’

He asked: ‘What is the meaning of its criticisms of the Hamas Movement in Gaza and, at the same time, its silence on what is happening, in terms of the violations of freedoms, the clashes, and the arrests faced by the members of Hamas in the West Bank?’

He described this as a ‘submission by the PFLP to Fatah.’

Al-Masri said that he expects the current crisis between Fatah and Hamas to be resolved, but not soon ‘because there is no option other than dialogue.’

He said: ‘All wagers on the Americans and Israelis will fail, except for those on Hamas’s national will.’

He added: ‘We expect Abu-Mazen (Mahmud Abbas) to receive a blow next fall. Once that happens, he will wake up and realise that the Palestinian lap is wider for him because the Israelis and Americans will not offer him anything.’

He stressed that ‘Hamas is ready for dialogue and for preparing the atmosphere for it.’

He pointed to the contacts made by Haniya with the custodian of the two holy mosques and Saudi Crown Prince Sultan Bin-Abd-al-Aziz, deputy prime minister, minister of defence and aviation, and inspector general, as well as his contacts with the Arab leaders and his announcement that he is fully ready to meet with President Abbas.

He said that this is ‘the best evidence of the intention of Hamas and its willingness to extend its hand for dialogue despite the excesses of Abu-Mazen and the violations of his security agencies in the West Bank.’

He affirmed Hamas’ willingness ‘to hand over the security headquarters to Abbas. These headquarters will be ready after completing them on national and professional foundations in accordance with dialogue.’

He denied that Hamas has had any problem with handing over the headquarters of security agencies from the first day. He said: ‘The language of threats against the cadres of security agencies by their former commanders, who instructed these cadres not to return to their places of work in order not to be deprived of their salaries, has hindered this step.’