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UPDATED: 14:44, January 16, 2005
Abbas sworn in as new PNA chairman
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Photo:Mahmoud Abbas (2nd L) is sworn in as new chairman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank city of Ramallah Jan. 15, 2005.
Mahmoud Abbas (2nd L) is sworn in as new chairman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) in the West Bank city of Ramallah Jan. 15, 2005.
Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in as new chairman of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) on Saturday, calling for a mutual ceasefire with Israel and reviving peace negotiations.

"The Palestinians are ready to implement the first part of the roadmap peace plan, and I extend my hand to the Israelis and I want to tell them that we are two peoples living on one land and we have to live side by side with each other," Abbas told a special parliament session dedicated to the swearing-in ceremony.

"We want to end the ongoing conflict between us and the Israelis forever, and the Palestinian National Authority is expressing its commitment to implementing the roadmap peace plan," he said.

The US-brokered roadmap peace plan, which was unveiled in April, 2003 to help solve the decades-long Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, was virtually derailed due to the cycle of violence.

"The Quartet has to practice its role directly and refrain from bringing partial solutions that might take us away from reaching a peaceful final status solution," said Abbas.

His remarks came one day after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered all government officials to cut contact with the PNA following a fatal attack on an Israeli checkpoint one day earlier.

On Thursday, six Israelis and three Palestinian militants were killed at the Karni passage in the Gaza Strip, the deadliest attack in the territories in a month.

Regretting the Israeli move, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said, "It was not conducive to the peace process or peace negotiations between the two sides."

However, he said that the Karni attack was not useful for the Palestinians. "What has happened is to worsen the lives of the Palestinian people and give Israel an excuse to continue its attacks."

Meanwhile, Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that it is necessary to renew the peace negotiations and implement the roadmap peace plan.

"What is needed to be done now is to immediately launch the peace talks and complete a meaningful peace process, implement the roadmap plan and end the military occupation," said Erekat.

Saturday's inaugural ceremony kicked off as interim PNA Chairman Rawhi Fatouh declared, "We have now a new elected Palestinian leader, legally and according to the Palestinian law, who is Mahmoud Abbas."

After changing his seat with Fatouh in a take-over gesture, Abbas delivered his speech, outlining tasks before the new Palestinian leadership.

Abbas said he was proud of democracy that the Palestinian people practised during Sunday's presidential election.

"I will follow the steps of late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and work hard in order to achieve a full Palestinian unity and a serious dialogue among all the Palestinian factions," he said.

"My mission as well as that of the Palestinian leadership is to achieve national liberation and end the Israeli occupation," said the moderate leader, who stands for non-violence struggle for an independent Palestinian state.

He also defended the authority of the PNA, as Islamic groups are poised to gain more street popularity.

"There is one Palestinian National Authority and one legal Palestinian gun," he said.

Meanwhile, Abbas revealed that Qurei will stay in his position and take charge of security affairs and preparations for the legislative election due on July 17.

The inaugural ceremony, attended by 67 lawmakers, PNA officials as well as Arab and foreign diplomats, came amid a new wave of violence between Israel and the Palestinians on the ground.

Earlier in the day, four Palestinians, including a police officer, were killed by Israeli soldiers in two separate incidents in Gaza City, while two Palestinians were killed in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah.

Also, Palestinian militants on Saturday continued firing homemade rockets at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip.

Hassan Khreisha, interim speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), said before the inaugural ceremony that there were many difficult missions awaiting Abbas.

Palestinian observers say that Abbas will have to deal with a handful of tough tasks, including restarting talks with Israel, curbing violence, pushing forward reforms in the PNA and reviving the battered Palestinian economy.


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