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Bush On Palestinian Election

The following is an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government:

Palestinians have elected Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, as the new president of the Palestinian Authority. He replaces Yasser Arafat, who died in November. Mr. Abbas, the Fatah party's candidate, will take office on January 12th. He is a one-time confidante of Mr. Arafat and a former Palestinian prime minister.

President George W. Bush says that for the Palestinians, the election is "a key step toward building a democratic future":

"I want to offer my congratulations to Mr. Abu Mazen. I look forward to talking with him at the appropriate time. I look forward to welcoming him here to Washington if he chooses to come here.... This is a man who has been elected by what appears to be a good-sized vote."

Hopes have been raised that Mr. Abbas will take steps to end terrorist attacks on Israel and re-start peace negotiations. Other countries also have roles to play. It is incumbent on the Arab states to take steps to create an environment conducive to peace, provide financial support to the Palestinian people, and stop assisting or harboring terrorists. And, says President Bush, Israel "must help to improve the humanitarian and economic situation in the West Bank and Gaza, and follow through with the disengagement plan":

"I think it is going to be very important for Israel to fulfill its obligations on the withdrawal from the territories that they have pledged to withdraw from. It is essential that Israel keep a vision of two states, living side by side in peace, and that as the Palestinians begin to develop the institutions of a state, that the Israeli government support the development of those institutions...that people be allowed to start building a society that meets their hopes and needs."

Mr. Abbas and his cabinet face critical challenges. These include ending terrorism, reducing corruption, and reviving the Palestinian economy.

The election of a new Palestinian Authority leader, says President Bush, marks an "historic day for the Palestinian people and for the people of the Middle East."