Palestinian govt platform drops "armed resistance"
RAMALLAH, West Bank, July 27 (Reuters) The Palestinian government of President Mahmoud Abbas has dropped the phrase ''armed resistance'' from its platform, a minister said today in a further break from Hamas Islamists in control of Gaza.
A spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert welcomed the move, which coincided with a flurry of diplomatic activity aimed at resuming long-stalled peacemaking.
''In this platform, we are very clear that the armed resistance must come to an end because it has nothing to do with establishing the state,'' Ashraf al-Ajrami, the Palestinian minister of prisoners affairs, told Reuters.
''Armed resistance and armed struggle are not included in the platform,'' he said.
The long-dominant Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), then led by Yasser Arafat, suspended its commitment to ''armed struggle'' on signing interim peace accords with Israel in 1993. Hamas refuses to renounce violence.
Some Fatah members took up arms in an uprising, or Intifada, after 2000 but Abbas, the current Fatah leader, has committed himself to negotiating peace.
''Unfortunately, the Intifada has come to symbolise armed chaos ... It is time for this chaos to end and for people to use popular means to achieve their goals,'' Nimer Hammad, a senior Abbas aide, told Reuters.
''There is a peace process and national struggle can come through peaceful means, rather than through rockets and chaos.'' Since dismissing a Hamas-led government last month, Abbas has spoken of the need for Palestinians to resist occupation in peaceful ways and dozens of Fatah militants have been given amnesty from arrest by Israel in return for laying down weapons.
RESPECT AND HOPE Asked about the platform change, Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for Olmert, said: ''In general, we can see on the ground, both in words and in fact, a new atmosphere on both sides.
''We still have a lot of work to do but this is a positive aspect and we both need to respect each other, in hope.'' A source in Prime Minister Salam Fayyad's office, which drafted the policy document, confirmed that wording on ''armed'' action -- which had been included in the platform of the two previous Hamas-led governments -- had been dropped.
The source acknowledged that the word ''resistance'' on its own does appear in the new platform but said it refers to measures such as non-violent demonstrations.
Abbas dissolved a Hamas-led unity government after the movement's fighters routed Fatah forces in Gaza last month and appointed an administration led by the Western-backed Fayyad, allowing resumption of foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority.
In an interview with Israel Radio, one of Olmert's closest confidants, cabinet minister Haim Ramon, said talks should be renewed with the new Palestinian government ''to reach agreements, mainly on final-status principles''.
In a bid to bolster Abbas, Israel has renewed a measure of security cooperation with his forces in the West Bank, agreed to stop pursuing some 180 wanted Fatah fighters and released 255 Palestinian prisoners from its jails.
Olmert has raised the prospect of talks with Abbas that would deal with the stages of establishing a Palestinian state. Abbas told Reuters yesterday he was still insisting on negotiating final-status issues as a package, not in stages.
Reuters JT RS2310