Erekat attacks Al Jazeera over 'smear campaign'

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The Independent Online

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat accused Al Jazeera television yesterday of putting his life in danger with "a vicious smear campaign" alleging major concessions in peace talks with Israel.

Mr Erekat said the Qatar-based network had misrepresented quotes and made up others in covering "The Palestine Papers" – its name for what it says are leaked documents showing the Palestinians giving way on major issues to Israel.

"What Al Jazeera people are doing is asking Palestinians to shoot me, physically. That's what they are doing. They are saying: 'You are guilty and thus you should be executed'," said Mr Erekat, who has been a central figure in the peace talks for years.

"Speaking for me and my family, they are inciting against our lives," he told Reuters in an interview at his office in the West Bank city of Jericho.

A spokesman for Al Jazeera could not be reached for comment.

Mr Erekat has featured prominently in Al Jazeera's coverage of what it says are 1,600 documents related to the Middle East peace process. The Doha-based channel started publishing the documents this week, along with the UK's Guardian newspaper.

Mr Erekat challenged Al Jazeera to seek out and broadcast the Palestinians' official negotiating positions on the core issue of the six-decade-old conflict. Asked for details, he said he needed approval before talking on the issue. He said Al Jazeera should be able to get the negotiating positions from the government of Qatar, the Gulf state which Palestinian officials say has launched a "campaign" against President Mahmoud Abbas due to its close ties to Hamas. Posters of the Qatari emir were burned by Abbas loyalists in Ramallah yesterday.