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Palestinian minister: We need time

By JOSHUA BRILLIANT

TEL AVIV, Israel, May 22 (UPI) -- Palestinian minister of state for security affairs said Wednesday the new government is rebuilding the Palestinian Authority and Israel should stop interfering.

In an interview with Israel's Channel 2 TV, Mohammd Dahlan said he did not believe Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, better known as Abu Mazen, would visit U.S. President George Bush as long as Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is confined to his headquarters in Ramallah.

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The interview, made in Gaza, was a clear attempt to reach out to Israelis smarting from a series of suicide bombings that left 12 people dead and Israeli government reports that Abu Mazen is weak, that Arafat is encouraging terror attacks, and that until something changes in Gaza and the West Bank Israel should see to its own security.

On Tuesday Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters accompanying him to Camp Zerifin that he has instructed the army, the police and the Shabak security service "to make every effort to stop this wave of terror and at the same time to continue hitting the terrorist organizations."

Bush phoned Abu Mazen Tuesday and urged him to do more to curb violence.

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Dahlan, who established the Preventive Security Service in Gaza and is responsible for security in the new government, said he was building a new Interior Ministry. "I believe that in two weeks we shall rebuild this ministry and begin with appointments. It's the beginning of rebuilding the (Palestinian) Authority," he said

"It doesn't matter if Chairman Arafat interferes or not," Dahlan said.

He noted the Israeli government looked forward to the formation of a new Palestinian government headed by Abu Mazen, who it viewed as a better partner for peace.

"Where is this partner(ship) now?" Dahlan asked. "They (the Israelis) are systematically destroying the Palestinian Authority, the prime minister, and my ability to work!"

Dahlan evaded a question on whether he can stop Hamas and Islamic Jihad attacks and disarm Palestinian militants.

"The question is directed to Israel," he said. "Is it ready to stop the daily killings of Palestinian people? Is it ready to recognize the 'road map?'" Dahlan asked, referring to a peace plan referring devised by the Quartet of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union. According to the plan, by 2005 Israel will have peace and security and the Palestinians a state.

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At the moment there is no security coordination nor any security ties with Israel, Dahlan said.

Though his relations with Arafat have soured, Dahlan strongly defended the Palestinian president's position as "a symbol of the Palestinian people."

"I don't think Abu Mazen is ready to go to Washington while the Chairman (Arafat) is detained and surrounded by your tanks in the Muqataa," Dahlan said.

A senior Israeli government official who spoke to United Press International on condition he not be named said the government was not harming Abu Mazen but hitting "the terrorist organizations that threaten him more than they threaten us.

"We are only taking steps to prevent attacks on (our) citizens. We can't take it that every day there will be rocket (attacks) from Gaza, and terrorist (suicide) attacks. There are 59 hot alerts (of attacks)," the source said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon Saturday night met Abu Mazen and rejected the Palestinian demand that Israel accept the 'road map" forthwith. Israel has some 15 reservations about the plan. Sharon intends to present them to Bush, Israel's closest ally among the Quartet.

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