Palestinian leader insists that peace with Israel is possible

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published Monday that he believes peace with Israel is possible but added that ending violence is a mutual commitment. The interview was published in The Independent newspaper after a weekend suicide bombing killed five Israelis at a Tel Aviv nightspot and wounded dozens more. The Friday attack was the first of its kind since Abbas took office after a Jan. 9 election. "We have an opportunity and it would be irresponsible if we, the Israelis, or the world allow it to slip away," Abbas was quoted as saying in the interview conducted by e-mail. The Independent said the questions were submitted last month, and the answers delivered Friday and Saturday. "We believe peace is possible now and we are ready to negotiate with Israel to reach a true and lasting peace based on justice and international legitimacy," Abbas said. The interview appeared a day before Abbas was due to visit London for a conference on reforming the Palestinian Authority. Tuesday's meeting is hosted by Prime Minister Tony Blair and will gather U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice and the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, World Bank officials and foreign ministers from some 25 European and Arab countries. Abbas said he expected the conference to "to send a clear signal of the international support of what we have already achieved." Recent successes include the democratic presidential election won by Abbas, a new Cabinet dominated by highly educated professionals, rather than cronies of his predecessor Yasser Arafat, and a cease-fire commitment from militant groups. Abbas added that he expected the London meeting to lead to a full-scale international conference "to relaunch final status negotiations and a credible peace process." Israel has blamed Syria and the Islamic Jihad for the bombing in Tel Aviv. According to The Independent, Abbas hinted at foreign involvement in the attack, saying "there may be other parties that want to destabilize the situation," and added: "It is necessary to deal with the party who is responsible for the planning." Associated Press

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