Palestinian calls suicide attacks 'murder'


JERUSALEM - The senior Palestinian security official, who has been negotiating with Israel on a cease-fire, denounced suicide attacks in an interview with an Israeli newspaper as "murders for no reason" and said he was demanding that militant organizations abandon them.

Abdel Razak Yehiyeh, who was appointed Palestinian interior minister in June, said he had told all Palestinian factions:

"Stop the suicide bombings, stop the murders for no reason. Return to the legitimate struggle against the occupation, without violence and following international norms and legitimacy."

Suicide attacks, he said, harmed the Palestinian cause.

"Children were exploited for these attacks," he said, "when they could have made a much more positive contribution to future Palestinian society."

While officials of the Palestinian Authority have assailed suicide bombings in the past and have claimed to oppose them, Yehiyeh has emerged as the primary Palestinian contact with Israelis in talks on easing violence.

He has also been holding meetings with all Palestinian factions, including the radical Hamas and Islamic Jihad, in an effort to forge a common front.

It was also noteworthy that his comments appeared in an interview with Israel's largest daily, Yediot Ahronot.

Yehiyeh and another ranking Palestinian, Mohammed Dahlan, who is Yasser Arafat's top security adviser, have been seeking in recent weeks to project a conciliatory, moderate image to Israelis.

Dahlan, a 42-year-old former chief of security in the Gaza Strip, has given several interviews to Israeli newspapers, including one that was on the front page of yesterday's Yediot Ahronot with Nahum Barnea, the paper's influential columnist.

In it, Dahlan declared that he was optimistic that the current violence would end in peace.

"I am optimistic," he said. "Peace is on the way. A year, or two, something like that. Really. This is the last round."

Yehiyeh, in his interview, acknowledged that neither Hamas and Islamic Jihad, nor the radical wing of Arafat's movement, Fatah, has agreed to forswear terror. The extreme organizations have publicly rejected Yehiyeh's proposals, though talks among the factions continue.

The next meeting was set for tomorrow.

Yehiyeh was also the Palestinian official who negotiated with the Israeli defense minister, Binyamin Ben Eliezer, on an agreement to pull Israeli troops back from Bethlehem and Gaza.

Though the process stalled after an initial pullback in Bethlehem, Yehiyeh said that Palestinians have "full control" in Bethlehem, which has remained peaceful since the Israelis allowed Palestinian police to return Aug. 19.

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