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Abbas to decree elections if fail to reconcile with Hamas
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday said he will call for coincident presidential and parliamentary elections at the beginning of next year if no reconciliation was reached with rival Hamas movement.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas gives a speech during the opening the Palestinian central council in the West Bank city of Ramallah on November 23, 2008. [AFP PHOTO]

"We are eager and interested in the dialogue (with Hamas) and we will spare no efforts to continue with it, but if it fails, I would have used everything," Abbas said, adding "then, there would be a decree launching legislative and presidential elections next year."

Hamas thwarted an Egyptian initiative to hold dialogue reconciling Hamas and Fatah this month, for the alleged clampdown by pro-Abbas forces against Hamas supporters in West Bank.

Abbas' remarks were made during a meeting of the Palestinian Liberation Organization's (PLO) Central Council in Ramallah.

Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas movement leader in Gaza told reporters in response to Abbas declaration that "Abbas has no right to decide a new date for holding the elections and he has no right to extend his presidential term."

Hamas said that according to the constitution, Abbas will not be the president of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) anymore after Jan. 9 next year, while the speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) would temporarily replace him.

However, since the PLC speaker Aziz al-Duwaik has been in jail, Hamas said his Gaza-based deputy, Ahmed Bahar, who is also one of the movement's leaders, would be the president for 60 days until a new presidential election is held in the Palestinian territories, according to the law.

Al-Zahar rejected the Palesinian Central Council (PCC) decisions, saying "the decisions of the central council are not obligatory to Hamas. Hamas, which won the parliamentary elections in early 2006, is not represented in the PCC and in Palestine Liberation Organization.

He reiterated that his movement is interested in getting to the table of dialogue with Abbas and his Fatah movement, but only if Abbas security forces free around 600 Hamas members and activists of the movement.

On Saturday, Azzam al-Ahmad, a Fatah official, said that the council will discuss the potential response to Hamas if it announces the end of Abbas' presidential term in January 2009.

"The council will call on Hamas and every party to maintain the basic law and the electoral law," al-Ahmad said, referring to a proposed amendment that the presidential elections should be held together with the legislative elections when the term of the parliament ends in January 2010.

The difference on Abbas' term is triggered by Hamas-Fatah feud that started after Hamas won the parliamentary elections in 2006. Last year, Hamas routed pro-Abbas forces and seized Gaza Strip, separating the enclave from Fatah-dominated West Bank.

Israel has closed all Gaza crossing points early this month, in spite of an Egyptian-brokered six-month truce between Israel and Gaza militants. The closure of the crossing came following the renewal of violence between the two sides.

(Xinhua News Agency November 24, 2008)



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