Johnston pays 'thank-you' visit to Abbas

BBC reporter: I know how much W. Bank Palestinians did to get me released.

July 5, 2007 17:30
1 minute read.
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BBC correspondent Alan Johnston visited Ramallah on Thursday to "thank" Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas for his efforts to secure his release, PA officials said. Johnston's visit to Ramallah, a day after his release from 114 days in captivity in Gaza, came at the request of senior PA officials, who were unhappy with the fact that the British reporter had given Hamas full credit for his release, the officials said. They said that PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and former Fatah security commander Jibril Rajoub visited the British Consulate-General in Jerusalem on Wednesday night and extended an invitation to Johnston to meet with Abbas. However, BBC Middle East Bureau Editor Simon Wilson said the idea for the Abbas visit originated with Johnston himself. "Alan wanted to thank as many people as possible," said Wilson. "There were many Palestinians across the West Bank who worked to secure his release," he said. In the car on the way out of Gaza, Johnston said that he wanted to thank Abbas, Wilson recalled. "We [the BBC] asked for a meeting with the president," Wilson said. He added that the British consulate put in a request for the meeting on Thursday morning and it was accepted by the Palestinians. Palestinian journalists with close links to Abbas's office are said to have phoned the BBC bureau in Jerusalem and protested against Johnston's appearance alongside Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and his statements crediting Hamas for his release. The journalists are also said to have demanded that Johnston come to Ramallah on Thursday for a meeting with Abbas.

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