Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon harshly attacked Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Monday, reiterating claims that Abbas was strengthening rather than fighting terror.
Speaking to visiting U.S. senators Bill Frist and Joseph Lieberman, Sharon said ‘Instead of working to disarm the terror organizations, he is working to strengthen them. He is not willing to fight them and is not willing to dismantle their infrastructure.’
Sharon accused that AbbasÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s course of action was contrary to the road map.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Abu Mazen [Abbas] is taking steps to preserve the quiet, but is refraining completely from taking significant steps against the terror organizations.’ Sharon said.
On Monday, Palestinian police arrested three armed Hamas operatives minutes after two Qassam shells were fired in the area.
Sharon told his visitors that Hamas should be disarmed before it participates in the elections to the Palestinian Legislative Council this summer.
‘It is inconceivable for an armed party to participate in the democratic process; from there, it is impossible to move on to the road map,’ Sharon said.
Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom delivered Monday a similar message to Quartet economic envoy James Wolfensohn.
‘If Hamas wants to become a political party, it must disarm,’ Shalom said.
Sharon has stepped up criticisms against Abbas on the eve of the later visit to Washington for summit talks with U.S. president George Bush.
Sharon is likely concerned that if Abbas gains international recognition for PA efforts to reform and enforce law and order, Israel will be pressured to fulfill the first stage road map obligations and to move to second stage.Ã‚Â Ã‚Â