PA chairman appeals for international force in Gaza and early elections.
By AP, JPOST.COM STAFF
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas appealed for an international force for Gaza so the divided Palestinians can hold new elections, and insisted he was determined to isolate the militant Hamas.
Abbas, in Paris on Friday for his first talks with Nicolas Sarkozy since he was elected French president last month, won France's "full support" for the Palestinian Authority - and €15 million (US$20 million) in aid.
Abbas lashed out at the "putschists" of Hamas for their violent takeover of Gaza earlier this month, and said he hopes to stage presidential and parliamentary elections before the end of the current terms. Abbas's Palestinian Authority now controls only the West Bank.
"I proposed an international force in Gaza" to ensure the elections can be held peacefully, Abbas said to Sarkozy. "Elections necessitate a certain stability in security."
Israel, the UN and EU have said they would consider the idea of an international force, though Hamas has rejected it.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, at a news conference with Abbas in Paris on Friday night after the two met, said only, "An international force cannot replace the peace process."
Kouchner urged a renewal of broader Mideast peace efforts. "Our Israeli friends and our Palestinian friends can count on France."
Sarkozy offered solid support to Abbas and confirmed new French direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, renewed after a 16-month embargo following Hamas's election win last year.
"We want your victory. You are the guarantor of peace," Sarkozy told Abbas, according to his spokesman David Martinon.
"France's goal is the creation of a free, independent and viable (Palestinian) state," Sarkozy said. He reiterated, however, France's demands for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian militants a year ago.
Abbas insisted the Palestinian Authority remains committed to democracy "despite all that has happened in recent days." He refused, however, any dialogue with those who led what he called "the bloody and ferocious coup d'etat against Palestinian legitimacy."
Sarkozy is to continue talks on the Middle East with Jordanian King Abdullah II and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni next week.
Abbas's Paris visit was originally planned last week but was postponed due to the events in the Gaza Strip.
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