PNA denies Abbas asked U.S. to continue Gaza blockade

Talk of Palestinian calls for NATO presence in West Bank

Moussa visits Gaza, meets Haniyeh, says siege must be broken

Netanyahu say naval blockade on Gaza won’t be lifted

Barak cancels visit to France for arrest fears

Malaysia calls for UN session to condemn Israel

Palestinian Presidency Spokesperson Nabil Abu Rdeina denied on Sunday reports in the Israeli daily Haaretz saying that President Mahmoud Abbas told U.S. President Barack Obama during his recent visit to Washington that he opposed the lifting of the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip.

Abbas had told Obama that the lifting of the blockade on Gaza was like the peace process in the sense that Abbas has raised the demand to lift the blockade in all his meetings with world leaders, the Palestinian news agency WAFA quoted Abu Rdeina as saying.

'The world should take advantage of the assault of the Gaza flotilla to push Israel to lift the blockade and end the suffering of Gaza's citizens,' Abu Rdeina, added. “This would be a good opportunity to revive the Middle East peace process.

Also, Chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, who accompanied Abbas on his US visit, further denounced the report that the Palestinian leader had requested a continuation of the blockade. On Sunday, he said the accusation was "yet another disinformation attempt aimed at distorting facts and deflecting Israel’s responsibility to end the illegal and inhuman siege on Gaza," a statement read.

“President Abbas has been demanding complete and unconditional lifting of Israel’s illegal siege over Gaza, which he reiterated during his recent meetings with World leaders.”

On the same day, the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reported that Abbas was opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because it would bolster Hamas, allegedly putting forward his stance to Obama during their meeting last Wednesday at the White House.

"The issue has been and will continue to be the main focus in all our discussions until our people in Gaza are free and the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem is ended," Erekat said.

Describing the report as "absurd" and baseless, the PLO official said it "lacks any credible source, can be so irresponsibly published."

"The illegal blockade has nothing to do with the Hamas since Gaza has been closed long before Hamas took control. Israel must end its unlawful blockade. Until then, Israel has certain obligations under international law to provide for the local population," Erekat said.

Instead of honoring its obligations under international law, "Israel is blocking humanitarian aid flotillas from reaching Gaza, and collectively punishing millions of innocent civilians in blatant disregard to international law."

"We will never countenance this or any other such illegal Israeli conduct and will continue to advocate against it and call for an international investigation," the official added.

Erekat was among the delegation of Palestinian officials accompanying Abbas during his US visit, meeting with the Obama administration's senior officials to discuss the latest developments in the Middle East, as US Middle East envoy George Mitchell continues to mediate indirect talks between Palestinian and Israeli leaders.

Following the meeting, Obama described Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip as "unsustainable" as well as the current state of affairs in the region, calling on Israel to allow more goods and services into the coastal enclave.

Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, whose country holds the European Union's rotating presidency, called this week for a "strong, joint EU position" on Gaza and Israel's blockade.

"We want to forge a strong, joint EU position towards what happened in Gaza and the humanitarian situation in that area," he said after talks with Palestinian leader Abbas.

Zapatero said his foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos, would propose to his EU colleagues at a meeting on Monday that the 27-nation bloc "clearly declare itself in favor of ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip."

Moratinos said in a television interview this week that the ministers would discuss "a plan for lifting the blockade" in order to "ensure the entry" of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people.

A draft text prepared for the ministers meeting in Luxembourg said Israel's blockade of the Hamas-ruled Gaza is "unacceptable and counterproductive, including from the point or view of Israel's security."

The ministers are to take into account the security concerns of Israel, which fears that arms and other military materials could be smuggled in with legitimate aid.

So the EU will call for the opening of borders under a "new mechanism" with a list of prohibited goods and "strict control over the destination of imported and exported merchandise," according to the text.

Abbas said that he is "satisfied with the EU's role and political position" on Gaza.

The Palestinian leader characterized his talks this week in Washington with US President Barack Obama as constructive, which focused on US-facilitated indirect talks between the Israelis and Palestinians.

Zapatero said "we hope... that with the efforts of President Obama we will be able within a reasonable time to move to direct dialogue and negotiations" between the Israelis and Palestinians.

The last round of direct negotiations between the two sides collapsed in December 2008 when Israel launched a devastating offensive against the Gaza Strip in a bid to halt Palestinian rocket fire aimed at Israeli towns.

Abbas also met with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Paris to talk about ways to encourage a lifting of the Gaza blockade.

The two men were not addressing media after Sunday's meeting.

On Monday, Abbas had lunch with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

The Foreign Ministry said ahead of the visit that talks with French officials would focus on the "recent tragedy off the coast of Gaza, and ways to encourage a lifting of the blockade."

France has pushed urgently for an end to the blockade since a deadly raid May 31 on a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza. Nine activists were killed in the Israeli commando mission.

On the other hand, London-based pan-Arab daily Al-Quds al-Arabi quoted Palestinian sources as saying on Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority is considering allowing the permanent stationing of NATO forces in the future Palestinian state.

The NATO forces would be able to prevent arms smuggling into the future state and to monitor that it would remain demilitarized.

Under any peace agreement likely to be formulated between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Israel would expect the Palestinian entity to remain demilitarized.

The Palestinian Authority will also ask NATO and the US to commit to “defending the Palestinian state from Israel," were relations to break down and were Israel to threaten the future Palestinian state with invasion, the report said.

US envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell is meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas Wednesday afternoon. According to the report, Abbas would be making this offer and request in the meeting.

According to the sources, Abbas will stress “the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to combating violence, incitement and to the war against terrorism,” as well as its continued cooperation with Israel and the US on security issues.

The report said the Palestinian Authority was willing to consider 1:1 land-swaps based on the 1967 borders on up to 4% of the territory beyond the green line, despite their official position, based on negotiations with the Olmert government of no more than 2% territorial exchanges. The Palestinian Authority takes into account that the territory needed to create the ‘safe passage’ between Gaza and the West Bank, would be part of the 4% land swap.

Meanwhile, PLO general-secretary Yasser Abed Rabbo said on Wednesday that Israel was not interested in negotiations and would do everything to derail them as soon as possible, Israel Radio reported.

Arab League chief Amr Moussa said at the end of a one-day visit to Gaza on Sunday that lifting Israel's blockade on the strip and ending internal Palestinian division have become a priority to the Arab world.

The two issues that distress the Palestinian people "have become a pressing priority for the joint Arabic moves," Moussa told journalists in Gaza.

"The next steps to lift the siege would be Arabic because everybody is now thinking that this blockade should not continue," Moussa added.

Moussa added that the AL was in contact with American and European officials to arrange to end the blockade.

Israel, which sealed Gaza in June 2007 to weaken Hamas, is reviewing its policy in the wake of an international outcry following its deadly raid on a Turkish-led Gaza-bound flotilla on May 31.

Meanwhile, Moussa, who also focused his talks in Gaza on the stalled Palestinian reconciliation, said he exchanged specific ideas with the factions regarding the national unity.

The reconciliation aims at ending a split between the Hamas- controlled Gaza and the West Bank. The split occurred when Hamas routed security forces of President Mahmoud Abbas and ousted his Fatah party.

Earlier in the day, in a meeting with representatives of NGOs and independents, Moussa said he is "pessimistic" about the future of the indirect U.S.-sponsored proximity talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

He stressed the necessity of "crystallizing a joint decisive Arab stance" if the proximity talks fail. "We should approach the United Nations Security Council if the talks fail," he said.

Under an American umbrella, proximity talks kicked off in May to handle security issues and the borders of the future Palestinian state. However, the talks have not yet made progress.

Moussa ruled out the possibility of an American veto if the Arabs wanted to find a solution to the Palestinian cause in Security Council.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a meeting of Likud ministers on Sunday that he supports easing the three-year blockade Israel has imposed on the Gaza Strip, but that he would not approve the lifting of the naval blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

With this declaration, Netanyahu rejected the proposal made by the foreign ministers of France, Spain and Italy, who suggested that in the future, Gaza-bound ships be searched by European inspectors in Cyprus.

The suggestion was made after a clash between Israeli navy commandos and Turkish activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship, part of a flotilla of ships aiming to break the blockade, resulted in the deaths of nine activists last month.

Netanyahu said during the meeting that 'Israel will continue to prevent ships from reaching Gaza, while simultaneously easing the blockade.' He added that other nations in the region also oppose lifting the naval blockade, saying that 'the arrival of ships directly to Gaza is problematic, not only for us, but for others as well.'

Israel's defense minister has shelved a trip to France after French survivors of the Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla put forward a request for his arrest upon arrival, according to Iran’s Press TV.

Ehud Barak was scheduled to inaugurate the Israeli stand at the international arms trade fair of Eurosatory, the International Middle East Media Center reported on Sunday.

A number of French human rights campaigners asked for his capture in retaliation to the deadly assault on their aid convoy which had set sail to break Tel Aviv's siege of the Gaza Strip, The Palestine Telegraph reported Saturday.

The Israeli attack killed at least 20 people in international waters.

The activists also said they would push for legal action against Tel Aviv through the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

"Israel needs to stop this bloody escalation and the only solution is international law. We want to stop Israel and punish the leaders who participated in this process. Our move is aimed at specific persons, mainly leaders, as well as those who carried out the orders, because it is not possible to hide behind a chain of command," the activists' spokeswoman, Lillian Glock, told reporters.

The six-ship Freedom Flotilla mission, joined by activists from over 40 nationalities, was carrying 10,000 tons of relief supplies for the impoverished coastal sliver.

Last year also, a British court convicted former Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of links to the atrocities committed by the regime during its December 2008-January 2009 assault on Gaza, which killed more than 1,400 people.

On the other hand, Malaysia is to seek the agreement of like-minded countries to condemn the atrocities of the Zionist regime at a special session of the United Nations in September, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said Saturday.

"I will ask our UN permanent representative in New York to meet with the UN Secretary-General to state that Malaysia is one of the countries which will bring a resolution on the matter.

"I will also contact member countries of the OIC (Organization of the Islamic Conference), NAM (Non-Aligned Movement) and other like-minded countries so that they will be in agreement to the holding of a UN special session in September," he said when launching the 1Malaysia Rally at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Najib had tabled a motion in the Dewan Rakyat on Monday where the Malaysian Government condemned the Israeli regime for having attacked a humanitarian aid ship bound for blockaded Gaza, resulting in the death of seven Turks who were among the peace activists, including 12 Malaysians, on board the vessel.

The 1Malaysia Rally, organized by Barisan National (BN) Youth, had gathered youths of all religions and races to condemn the Zionist regime and express support for the people of Palestine.

The rally was also aimed at explaining government policies and obtaining feedback from the people on their implementation.

Simultaneously with the 1Malaysia Rally, the Prime Minister also launched the 1Malaysia Tour of going down to the ground to get closer to the people, including in Sabah and Sarawak.

In his speech, earlier, Najib said the Government would assist youths who had the potential to succeed without regard to any quota.

"We will help youths with potential to succeed because they have the capacity to compete and are bold enough to move forward and bring about change - youths with the potential to become domestic, regional and global champions.

"We will not make special considerations or defend any quota.

We will provide assistance to those who are prepared to go forward.

"I want to identify among youths, including girls, those who have the capacity to succeed and change and become global champions.

The Government will help them achieve success," he said.

Also present at the event was Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Umno Vice-President Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Gerakan President Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon and youth leaders of the BN component parties, including from Sabah and Sarawak.

In conjunction with the launch, the Malaysian People's Peace Alliance (Aman Malaysia) held a "Save Palestine" exhibition at the Putra Stadium to portray the history of occupation of Palestine as well as pictures depicting the Zionist regime's atrocities. Aman Malaysia Chairman, Datuk Ahmad Zaki Zahid, said the exhibition would be moved to KL Sentral next week and later to other venues throughout the country.

He also said the "SMS for Gaza" campaign launched by Aman Malaysia last week had received 40,000 messages whereby the collection from the SMS dispatches would be channeled to Gaza through the Foreign Ministry.

Malaysians could express their support for the people of Palestine via SMS by typing GAZA and sending to 32928. The telcos would charge 50 sen for each SMS.