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New leader for the Palestinians.

On January 9, Palestinians overwhelmingly chose Mahmoud Abbas (mahk-MOOD ah-BAHS) to be their new President, bringing hope to a troubled land. Abbas, who has called for an end to violence between Palestinians and Israelis, reached out to Israelis after the election.

"We extend our hands to our neighbors," the new President said. "We are ready for peace--peace based on justice."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon phoned Abbas to congratulate him and promised to meet with him in "the near future." In the United States, President George W. Bush also hailed the election and promised to "help the Palestinian people realize their aspirations [dreams or ambitions]."

As President of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas, 69, succeeds Yasir Arafat, who died in November. For more than 40 years, Arafat was the living symbol of hope for an independent Arab country of Palestine. But many people accused Arafat of supporting terrorism. Sharon and Bush had refused for the last several years to negotiate with him.

Abbas has repeatedly criticized both Israeli and Palestinian violence. It remains to be seen if he will be able to control such terrorist groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Both groups pledged to cooperate with the new Palestinian President, but also to continue attacks against Israel.

Indeed, less than a week after the election, Hamas and other militant groups killed six Israelis in an attack at a checkpoint. Israel immediately suspended ties with Abbas, who pledged to work with militants for a cease-fire deal.
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Title Annotation:International
Publication:Junior Scholastic
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:7PALE
Date:Feb 7, 2005
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