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Abbas Reaffirms Peace Program Despite Hamas Election Victory


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to peace negotiations with Israel and promised to press ahead with efforts to form a new government. Mr. Abbas' statement comes on the heels of a surprise election victory by the militant Islamic group, Hamas.

Mr. Abbas' televised address was brief and came just hours after election officials in Ramallah confirmed that Hamas had won Wednesday's legislative elections.

The Palestinian president re-affirmed he would continue to pursue his policies for peace with Israel.

"I am committed to implementing the program on which you elected me a year ago - a program based on negotiations and a peaceful settlement with Israel," he said.

Mr. Abbas also mentioned re-activating the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the PLO - the umbrella group of most Palestinian factions. The suggestion here is that the PLO may spearhead future talks with Israel, bypassing the Palestinian Authority government, which will be dominated by Hamas.

Mr. Abbas had said earlier that if he is not able to pursue his policies toward peace, he would resign.

In his televised speech, the president also said he would begin immediate consultations to form a new government.

Mr. Abbas' Fatah-led government under Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia resigned Thursday after it became clear that Hamas had won the elections and toppled the long-ruling Fatah party.

Israel said it would not negotiate with a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office released a statement saying Israel would not negotiate with an administration that includes an armed terrorist organization that calls for Israel's destruction.

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