Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen),
leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization, breezed to victory in January’s election for president of the Palestinian Authority, winning 62% of the vote. Abbas succeeded former president Yasir Arafat, who died in Nov. 2004. At a summit meeting in Egypt in February, Abbas and Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon agreed to a conditional cease-fire. International attention turned to Abbas in August, after Israel evacuated settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank, to see how he would handle the transition and control militant groups.