Thursday, May 24, 2007

PLO backs army entry into Nahr al-Bared

PLO backs army entry into Nahr al-Bared
Fatah al-islam has 'clear-cut agenda against palestinians'

By Nafez Qawas and Mohammed Zaatari

BEIRUT/TYRE: The representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Lebanon said Wednesday that the PLO would not object if the Lebanese Army decided to send troops into the Nahr al-Bared refugee camp "to crush Islamist extremists entrenched there." "This is a Lebanese decision," Abbas Zaki said following a meeting with Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Butros Sfeir in Bkirki. At least 55 combatants and 27 civilians have been killed in three days of fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam militants in the camp. "We have repeatedly declared that we supported Lebanon's sovereignty and endorse any decisions Lebanese authorities made," Zaki said. Also on Wednesday, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyya asked Lebanon to help resolve a humanitarian crisis facing Palestinian refugees following three days of fighting with Islamists. Haniyya, of the Islamist group Hamas, called Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, Premier Fouad Siniora and Speaker Nabih Berri to express solidarity with Lebanese security after the raid against Fatah al-Islam. "Prime Minister Haniyya confirmed the Palestinian position that we stand by the protection of Lebanon's security and law, and confirmed the need to protect Palestinian people in this refugee camp," his office said in a statement. He conveyed the "need to resolve the humanitarian issues after the clashes" and "we [the leaders] agreed to pursue this issue to find a quick solution to this crisis," the statement added.

Zaki had visited the Grand Serail on Wednesday - the third consecutive day he has done so - to discuss the conflict in the North with Siniora. Sources close to Siniora quoted the premier as saying on Wednesday that all attempts to stoke tensions between the Lebanese and the Palestinians "will fail." Sources added that Siniora was "totally aware" of the fact that Palestinians living in Lebanon "had no connections whatsoever with terrorist groups such as Fatah al-Islam." Siniora took a phone call Wednesday from Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema, who expressed his government's support for the Siniora government and the army in their fight against "terrorism." Siniora is expected to hold a news conference on Thursday at noon at the Grand Serail to comment on the developing security situation and to mark the 2000 withdrawal of Israel from South Lebanon. Liberation Day falls on Friday, May 25.

Separately, the special envoy of the UN secretary general to Lebanon, Geir Pedersen, visited Zaki at the PLO headquarters in Beirut. Zaki and Pedersen discussed the fighting at Nahr al-Bared and the living conditions in general of Palestinians in Lebanon. French Ambassador Bernard Emie also met with Zaki on Wednesday to thank him for the efforts of the PLO and the Fatah Movement to evacuate five French nationals inside the Nahr al-Bared camp when clashes erupted. In other developments, the commander of Fatah in Lebanon, Brigadier Sultan Abu al-Aynayn, dismissed on Wednesday media reports that he planned to send fighters to the Nahr al-Bared camp to fight Fatah al-Islam. "We did not sent any fighters and we are not planning to do so since the suppression of Fatah al-Islam is not the responsibility of Fatah solely," Abu al-Aynayn said at a news conference held at the Rashidieh refugee camp near Tyre. Various Palestinian factions "ought to reach a common" agreement about Fatah al-Islam, "and Fatah will decide on its future action accordingly," he said. The Fatah commander said that organizations like Fatah al-Islam constituted "a real threat to Palestinians more than the Lebanese" and said Fatah al-Islam had a "clear-cut agenda targeted against Palestinians." Abu al-Aynayn called on the leaders of various Palestinian factions in Lebanon "to put their words into action" in order to "find proper and effective means to abolish Fatah al-Islam terrorists." - With AFP

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