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(photo credit: AP [file])
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas vowed Friday to end the violence that marred this week's primary elections across the Palestinian territories and promised "security and transparency" in upcoming parliamentary polls.
On a three-day visit to Italy, Abbas stressed "the issue of security, of public order and of the end of violence represents a vital interest for our people."
"The monopoly of force must belong to the Palestinian Authority alone," Abbas said, adding that the Palestinians "must guarantee participation, security and transparency" in next month's parliamentary elections, Abbas said after talks with Italy's head of state, President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi.
The ruling Fatah party is holding its first primaries as it gears up for the January vote, but the primaries have been marred by violence and disarray. Earlier this week, results in the Gaza Strip were nullified after gunmen attacked polling stations.
Flanked by Abbas, Ciampi said that to achieve peace and independence for his people, the Palestinian leader must "maintain public order, fight subversive and terrorist movements and make them lose strength."
Abbas and other Palestinian officials met with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini.
Abbas thanked Italy for its contribution to the Middle East peace process and its participation in EU teams monitoring the newly opened Gaza-Egypt border crossing at Rafah.
Ciampi also urged Israelis and Palestinians to abide by the "road map" peace plan after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza.
Asked about political developments in Israel, including the recent establishment of Sharon's Kadima Party, in view of Israeli elections in March, Abbas said "whoever wins will have our full cooperation."
Abbas was scheduled to be received by Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday at the Vatican, his first official meeting with the new pontiff.
When Pope John Paul II received Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in 1982, the first of many meetings the two men had, protests were sparked in Israel and in the worldwide Jewish community.