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Sharon: Abbas must act to eliminate terror groups

Israeli leader plans to meet with Palestinian president

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Ariel Sharon
Mahmoud Abbas
Abu Mazen

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Sunday he plans to meet soon with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and will urge him to take action quickly against extremist Islamic organizations.

Despite the deployment of Palestinian forces in Palestinian-controlled areas, Sharon said Abbas has not yet taken effective action, according to a statement released by the prime minister's office.

"We will give Abu Mazen every opportunity, but we must know where he is going," Sharon said during a meeting with Jordanian Foreign Minister Hani al-Mulki. Abbas is also known as Abu Mazen.

"He must start to eliminate the terrorist organizations," Sharon said.

Sharon said the actions Abbas has taken so far only ensure "the political and security strengthening of the organizations due to his intention of neither confronting them nor dismantling them.

"These bodies will not give up on terrorist actions, and therefore, the more that we move the process forward, under the aegis of a temporary quiet, the more we will be hostages to these same organizations, who will explode the process like they did in 2003," Sharon said.

The prime minister said the Lebanon-based Shiite Muslim militant group Hezbollah was the biggest danger to the stability of Abbas' government.

"Hezbollah encourages terrorist actions and threatens the cease-fire that Abu Mazen is trying to arrange with the rejectionist Palestinian organizations, as we saw in the recent terrorist attack in Tel Aviv," Sharon said, referring to the suicide bombing that left five people dead February 25.

Hezbollah seeks to establish a fundamentalist Muslim state through guerrilla war against Israel. The United States and Israel consider it a terrorist organization.

An official with President Bush's administration said Tuesday that the U.S. government has "firm evidence" that leaders of the Syria-based Palestinian Islamic Jihad group not only authorized but also were "actively involved in planning" the attack. (Full story)

Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a militant group dedicated to the creation of an Islamic Palestinian state and the destruction of Israel. The group has carried out military operations against Israeli soldiers and civilians, and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and Israel.

Sharon said his government would not negotiate in any peace talks with Syria, because it "provides sanctuary for the heads of all the terrorist organizations so that they can dispatch terrorists to perpetrate attacks in Israel."

Abbas and Sharon met February 8 in Egypt, where they announced a cease-fire. (Full story)

Meanwhile, a Sharon adviser confirmed Sunday that the Israeli prime minister will visit Bush in Washington in April. A specific date was not given.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, Bush said Abbas' government is on the hunt for the bombers who launched the attack in Tel Aviv.

"Such action is critical, because that attack is a reminder that there are still groups and individuals who will kill to prevent peace in the Middle East," Bush said.

And, he said "the first reform" in that area "must be the dismantling of terrorist organizations. Only by ending terrorism can we achieve our common goal of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and freedom."

Speaking to reporters after talks with European Union officials Wednesday in Belgium, Abbas repeated his pledge to carry out necessary reforms to pave the way for statehood. (Full story)

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