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PM Sharon, Abu Mazen Meet...

Ahead of the planned tripartite Sharon-Bush-Abbas meeting next week in Aqaba, Jordan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud (Abu Mazen) Abbas met last night in Jerusalem.
First Publish: 5/30/2003, 4:36 PM

Ahead of the planned tripartite Sharon-Bush-Abbas meeting next week in Aqaba, Jordan, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud (Abu Mazen) Abbas met last night in Jerusalem. The meeting, the second of its kind in two weeks, lasted nearly three hours and was described as "positive" and "beneficial" in statements issued by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

There was at least one protest against the Prime Minister of Israel meeting with the appointed leader of the PA, which has been shown to be involved in terrorism. A small group of right-wing demonstrators, led by former Knesset candidate Baruch Marzel and Itamar Ben-Gvir, were distanced by police from the prime minister's office last night.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon promised Abu Mazen that Israel would lower restrictions imposed on the PA as a step forward on the US-sponsored Road Map plan. Among the concessions offered to Abu Mazen: the lifting of the closure on PA-controlled areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the issuing of tens of thousands of Israeli work permits for PA Arabs; the release of administrative detainees from Israeli prisons - including Tarsier Haled, a senior DFLP commander; the increase of the monthly transfer of tax funds to the PA from NIS 100 million to NIS 150 million; and the reissuing of VIP passes for senior PA officials, permitting them unrestricted travel in Israel.

Regarding the IDF redeployment, Sharon said that it was contingent upon the PA acting against the terrorist threat to Israel, and that the withdrawal will be carried out in such a way as to allow PA security services to operate in the areas in question. However, the Prime Minister stressed, if the PA fails to take action against terrorism, then the army would act freely in those areas evacuated.

In a statement released by the PA, Abu Mazen called on Sharon "to take the opportunity for peacemaking..." The statement said that "Both sides agreed to continue with their meetings and work on making the efforts of President Bush, and the other members of the Quartet, a success...." According to the Haaretz newspaper, Abu Mazen told the Prime Minister that he was seeking to remove all illegal weapons from the PA, and that he would not be satisfied only with a declaration of "hudna" (tactical cease-fire) on the part of armed gangs in the PA.

Immediately following the meeting, Abu Mazen traveled to Ramallah to brief PLO leader Yasser Arafat on the talks. A meeting of senior PLO members is due to be convened to discuss the Sharon-Abu Mazen meeting in the coming days.