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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Mahmoud Abbas Addresses Palestinian Council

Aired September 4, 2003 - 05:06   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Well, today marks a milestone for Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, his first 100 days in office. In fact, right now at this hour, he's addressing the Palestinian Council. He's talking about achievements in the area of financial reform and accountability.
Let's listen in right now.

MAHMOUD ABBAS, PALESTINIAN PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): ... came in that context and towards that direction. Vis-a-vis the role of the United States, we started a good formal relationship with the United States and we see that this new born relationship is in the context of a deeper relationship between the United States and Israel. And while we recognize the strategic relationship between Israel and the United States, we are committed to maintain...

WHITFIELD: All right, as the prime minister speaks there, our Michael Holmes is in Ramallah, keeping tabs of the goings on out there -- and, Michael, he's talking primarily about accountability, putting a lot of blame on the Israelis for the latest string of violence. At the same time, he says he is not going to admonish the militant groups there, instead, kind of maintain some dialogue.

MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. He's been saying things like that. We've been told off the record, however, that while contacts with Hamas may continue, there won't be any meaningful negotiations with the militant group until they agree to disarm the military wing, the Izzedine al-Qassam. Now, we were told that by a very well placed source.

So what's being said publicly not tallying with, exactly with what we've been told by other sources. We've been told that Hamas has been given basically an ultimatum by Abu Mazen, the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, to disarm the military wing, collect illegal weapons before there can be any serious negotiations.

We also heard, as you said, that he's blaming Israel for the problems that we've seen in recent days. He said that -- for the collapse of the cease-fire, he said that it was Israeli Army killings that destroyed the hudna through a political decision. Now, it's important to get the what happened when. What he's referring to there is some Israeli military actions that took place in the West Bank, in Hebron and in Nablus, where Palestinian militants were killed and some civilians were wounded by Israeli troops.

That was before the West Jerusalem bus bombing, which was claimed by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and that is what the prime minister is referring to, that those killings prompted the West Jerusalem bus bombing. Hardly in perspective, of course, but that is what he is saying.

He did say that he's reluctant to crack down on militants, but will continue dialogue. He also noted the problems between his cabinet and the office of the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat, and said that those problems need to be worked out under the rule of law.

He also spoke about that very controversial wall that is snaking its way through the West Bank and in some placed well into the West Bank. It is also now being built through the center of Jerusalem, between East and West Jerusalem. He called it a "racist wall like the Berlin Wall" and he said it's being built under the pretext of security.

So a very strong speech by the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas. I want to tell you, too, that we've just -- after he arrived here not half an hour ago there was a very angry demonstration by a small group, but a very, very vocal group. It included masked men from the Al Aksa Martyr Brigade who arrived and painted graffiti on the wall calling the Palestinian prime minister a collaborator, and that of his cabinet a collaborator, as well. The graffiti is just next to me now. A fairly dramatic few minutes.

WHITFIELD: All right, Michael Holmes in Ramallah.

We'll be checking back with you shortly.

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