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AMMAN - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said he wants to amend an "unfair" 1994 agreement on economic ties

Many names, one person: Abu Mazen, Abbas, ‘reborn Yasser Arafat’

Abbas says he wants to amend unfair accord with Israel, as Palestinians gather to welcome UN-made hero.




 with Israel, as he returned from New York on Saturday, pledging also to resume talks with Hamas.

"We want to amend the Paris economic agreement between the PLO and Israel because it is not fair," Abbas told reporters en route to Amman, Jordan from the UN General Assembly, where he applied for Palestinian UN membership.

"It (the agreement) contains restrictions that affect the Palestinian economy and hinder its development. The Paris agreement does not allow Palestinians to promote their economy."

Abbas was referring to the Protocol on Economic Relations signed in Paris in 1994 between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

He went on to say that he was committed to opening the "next step in a comprehensive dialogue" with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement in Gaza which opposed his bid for UN membership.

"Some Hamas officials opposed the (UN) approach by the Palestinian leadership and had reservations, but overall, I received support among leaders" from the movement, said Abbas.

"We will discuss reconciliation with Hamas but also the prospects of the Palestinian movement," he said.

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians massed in the West Bank city of Ramallah Sunday to give their president a hero's welcome for submitting a historic bid for UN membership.

President Mahmud Abbas was expected to arrive in the city, the political capital of the West Bank, at around 1100 GMT, but crowds began gathering at his presidential headquarters, the Muqataa, hours in advance.

Local unions, Abbas's Fatah party, and the campaign that backed the membership bid called on Palestinians across the West Bank to travel to Ramallah to welcome the leader back.

Buses laid on by different groups were bringing thousands from cities including Hebron in the south and Jenin in the north, organisers said.

In the Muqataa, a small stage was erected not far from the grave of former president Yasser Arafat, with Abbas expected to address the jubilant crowds.

Mohammed Amudi, who was awaiting Abbas's arrival with his young son, said he wanted to demonstrate his backing for the UN bid.

"I came to the Muqataa to declare my support for Abu Mazen's brave speech at the United Nations and his challenge to the United States," he said, using Abbas's popular nom de guerre.

"Abu Mazen deserves to have all the Palestinians standing with him in this battle," he said.

Nearby, 71-year-old Abed Qader Mohammed sat holding a Palestinian flag.

"I came to show solidarity with Abu Mazen because I believe that his speech to the UN was not just his speech, but our speech," he said.

"Abu Mazen did his job at the UN and put our demands on their table and I'm here at the Muqataa today to say to him: thank you."

In Jericho, crowds lined up to board buses for Ramallah.

"I'm going to Ramallah today to say 'Thank you president Mahmud Abbas'," said Anwar Ahmed, a government employee clutching a Palestinian flag.

"Before the president's UN speech I didn't care that much about politics, but after hearing the speech I understood better the difficulties we face as a people and the difficulties our president faces," Ahmed said.

Huge crowds were expected to turn out for the celebration, with the Palestinian workers' union calling on its members to join and government offices and schools closing early for the event.

Both state television and the state-run news agency WAFA urged the public to mass at the Muqataa, and Palestinians across the West Bank received text messages advertising "the official mass reception."

Abbas is experiencing an unprecedented boost in popularity after delivering a request earlier this week that the United Nations admit Palestine as a full member state.

His address to the General Assembly, delivered shortly after he formally submitted the bid, was broadcast live on big screens set up in the centres of major West Bank cities.

Crowds cheered the unassuming leader, and he received rave reviews in the Palestinian media the next day, with commentators hailing his "brave" address and his courage in delivering the bid despite US and Israeli opposition.

"President Abu Mazen returns today and the masses have prepared to welcome him with a reception fit for the man who raised the voice of Palestine in the world's most important forum -- the United Nations," Al-Quds newspaper wrote in its editorial on Sunday.



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