Arafat's successor tells media to lay off Israel

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The Independent Online

Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has ordered official Palestinian television and radio stations to cut back on anti-Israel rhetoric.

Mahmoud Abbas, who succeeded Yasser Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has ordered official Palestinian television and radio stations to cut back on anti-Israel rhetoric.

It was seen yesterday as a gesture to Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, who called last week for Mr Abbas, popularly known as Abu Mazen, to end "incitement" as a first step to renewing peace negotiations.

Radwan Abu Ayyash, chairman of the Palestinian Broadcasting Corporation, said last night: "I have told my colleagues to check twice before airing anything. I don't accept that we incite. We broadcast the news. But we don't want to give Sharon any pretext for not talking to Abu Mazen."

The Israeli Prime Minister recognised it was too early to expect Mr Abbas, the front-runner in the presidential election due on 9 January, to crack down on militias, but it remains a key Israeli demand. Mr Abbas said during a visit to Cairo on Sunday that he aimed to establish a single legally armed Palestinian security force.

A Hamas political leader, Sheikh Hassan Yusef, said yesterday that Islamic militants may be interested in joining a national unity administration with the new leadership.

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