Abbas Vows Loyalty to Arafat's Legacy

Palestinian leaders gathered yesterday in Ramallah and stressed that they would abide by the policies set by Yasser Arafat - above all, the right of the refugees to return.

To this end, the Palestinian parliament held a memorial meeting for Arafat, under the slogan, "The loyalty session to the martyr president, Abu Ammar." Simultaneous sessions were held in Gaza and Ramallah.

"We will not rest until the right of our people to return is granted and the tragedy of the refugees comes to an end," Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) told the gathering.

He several times repeated phrases coined by Arafat, such as "a commitment is a commitment and an oath is an oath," which the late Palestinian Authority chairman used to stress the principles of Fatah and the PLO.

Abbas said he and the present leadership would remain true to "the historic commitments and the principles guiding Arafat's ways. We shall act to realize his dream to achieve an independent state that has already been promised by international law, with its capital in Jerusalem."

He described Arafat as having been "moderate" and said he had "determinedly and optimistically navigated, realizing that the pessimist would never win the battle."

Similar remarks were made by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala). "We shall abide by our rights, first and foremost the right of return and the right of self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital," he said.

Meanwhile, a group of Jewish leaders in the United States has called on the newly appointed secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, to put pressure on both Israel and the Palestinians in order to renew the peace process. Israel, they believe, should put an end to settlement activity, while the Palestinians should mount a genuine effort to prevent terrorism.

In their letter, the 75 Jewish leaders ask Rice to show "ongoing, personal involvement... to create reality from President [George W.] Bush's vision" of two democratic states living peacefully side by side. They warn that "a crucial opportunity may be lost" if this is not done.