abbas 88 AP.
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday expressed hope that he could meet with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to discuss ways of reviving the peace process.
He was speaking to reporters upon his return from a visit to Washington, where he met with US President George W. Bush. Abbas also visited France, Spain, Egypt, Jordan and Algeria.
Asked about his planned summit with Sharon, Abbas said: "We are still preparing for it. We already delayed it because we hadn't prepared well for it. Once we are fully prepared, we will certainly meet to discuss a number of issues, especially the implementation of the Sharm e-Sheikh understandings and the road map."
A senior diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday night that Israel was also hopeful the problems would be resolved and expected to receive a request from the PA for a resumption of preparatory meetings.
The source said that a Sharon-Abbas summit would only be held when there were "decisive and sustained efforts by the Palestinians to rein in terror," adding that "hopes are one thing, action is another."
Abbas also announced that Hamas will participate in the parliamentary elections slated for January, saying he discussed the issue with Bush and other world leaders he met during his tour.
"Israel was strongly opposed to the participation of Hamas in the elections, but I believe we have solved this problem and Hamas will take part because we are all one people and we care about each individual," he said.
On Wednesday, Abbas is expected to address the Palestinian Legislative Council during a special session in Ramallah to discuss the ongoing state of anarchy in PA-ruled areas and demands to replace Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei's cabinet.
Earlier this month more than half of the legislators signed a petition urging Abbas to establish a new cabinet to face growing lawlessness within two weeks or face a no-confidence vote.
The ultimatum was extended until Wednesday at the request of Abbas, who declared his intention to address the council in person on the cabinet crisis and the anarchy.
On the eve of the session, Qurei issued a statement in which he stressed the need to impose law and order and solve the problem of West Bank militiamen wanted by Israel for their involvement in terror.
Qurei said that he had ordered Interior Minister Nasser Youssef and commanders of the security forces to go to Nablus to try to find a solution for hundreds of militiamen, most of whom are affiliated with Fatah. Earlier this week Qurei announced that Fatah's armed wing, the Aksa Martyrs Brigades, would be dissolved and its members would be recruited into the security forces.
Many of the gunmen remain strongly opposed to the plan, vowing to continue their attacks on Israel.
PA officials confirmed on Tuesday that five Fatah gunmen had been arrested in Bethlehem over the past few days. According to the officials, the detainees were transferred to a PA prison in Jericho.
They added that the five, who were recently recruited into the security forces, were arrested after failing to report to work on time. The officials denied claims by some residents that the detainees were suspected of involvement in the recent shooting attack in Gush Etzion in which three settlers were killed.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.