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Abbas Is Declared President-Elect

Bush Extends White House Invitation

By Molly Moore and John Ward Anderson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 11, 2005; Page A10

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Jan. 10 -- Mahmoud Abbas, officially declared the winner Monday of the Palestinian presidential election with 62 percent of the vote, turns now to the challenges of ending an armed uprising that many of his people support, reviving peace talks with Israel and reforming a government rife with corruption.

In Washington, President Bush underlined U.S. hopes that Abbas's election would help restart peace negotiations. Bush said Monday that he looked forward to meeting Abbas at the White House, "if he chooses to come here." Bush had shunned the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat as an obstacle to peace.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, who observed Sunday's vote for Palestinian president, greets Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah. (Pool Photo/Ruth Fremson Via AP)

_____From the Mideast_____
Video: Analysis of the challenges that face Abbas as he succeeds Arafat and works for a Palestinian state.
Photo Gallery: Palestinians cast their votes.

Bush called on both sides to help. "It is essential that Israel keep a vision of two states living side by side in peace," he said, "and that as the Palestinians begin to develop the institutions of a state, that the Israeli government support the development of those institutions."

Abbas said Monday that his side was ready to resume talks based on the internationally backed peace plan known as the "road map." "We extend our hands to our neighbors," he said. "We are ready for peace -- peace based on justice."

The 69-year-old Abbas will be inaugurated as president of the Palestinian Authority on Wednesday. He has set out a broad agenda for the coming weeks, aides said Monday. "Continuing this democratic process is the first thing on his mind," said Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

Abbas will need to quickly begin talks with the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas, and other radical groups, Shaath said, to "reassess whether they will agree to a cease-fire and pursuing a peace process."

Associates said Monday that Abbas had asked Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to form a new cabinet -- probably with fewer loyalists from Arafat's old guard -- to serve until legislative elections this summer.

According to final results released Monday by the Palestinian Central Elections Commission, Mustafa Barghouti, a medical doctor and human rights activist, placed second in the Sunday balloting with 20 percent of the vote. Five remaining candidates split 11 percent. Seven percent of the ballots were invalidated or blank.

Election monitoring teams from the United States and the European Union on Monday praised the vote as democratic but marred by some serious shortcomings and abuses.

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, whose Carter Center teamed with the National Democratic Institute to dispatch 80 observers Sunday, called the election "honest, free, fair and open."

But Carter said that electoral confusion in East Jerusalem, where voting was severely restricted by Israel, was "terrible." He said he visited a polling station where "not a single person had been allowed to vote" by noon -- five hours after the polls had opened.

Carter said he spent nearly two hours on the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office and Palestinian election officials to loosen the restrictions.

The E.U. team said in a report Monday that "a widespread problem during the campaign was the involvement of Palestinian Authority institutions, personnel and materials on behalf of Mahmoud Abbas. . . . The PA is not supposed to be involved at all in such a manner."

As Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, prepares to take office, the United States and Israel are now in a position where they can no longer claim they do not have a negotiating partner. Abbas was their clear choice to become president, and he has a popular mandate to try to end armed attacks by Palestinian radicals against Israel.

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