PARIS - In Paris this weekend, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the prisoner swap due this week that will free Gilad Shalit, but said France should work just as hard to secure the freedom of Salah Hamouri, a French-Palestinian behind bars in Israel since 2005.
Speaking to reporters Friday after his meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Abbas said he had urged his counterpart to intervene on behalf of Hamouri, a 26-year-old accused of plotting to assassinate Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
"France provided so many efforts to get [Shalit's] release," Abbas said. He said he applauded all the "considerable" efforts but that he hoped "everyone [would make] an effort, including France, on our side to obtain [Hamouri's] release too."
On the prisoner deal between Israel and Hamas, Abbas said that when many Palestinian prisoners are freed and reunited with their families, "of course this makes us feel very happy. This is good for us and I want every Palestinian prisoner to be able to reclaim liberty."
Abbas arrived in France on a tour that has taken him to three Latin American countries to shore up support for the Palestinians' UN bid for statehood. He also criticized Israel's plans to expand settlement building. Israel seems determined to continue with settlement construction, Abbas said.
According to Abbas, "there have been 2,600 bids for the construction of housing, at least over the last two weeks. This shows that [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu does not respect international law and does not want peace." He added that he hoped France would "do more and more and more in the peace process." (Danna Harman )
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