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Abbas Warns Hamas About Policy


The Palestinian president has issued a stern warning to the new government headed by the Islamic militant group, Hamas, as it prepares to assume power next week. This points to an emerging power struggle between Palestinian moderates and militants.

Moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has hinted that he is prepared to bring down the new Hamas-led government if its policies harm Palestinian interests. The warning was delivered in a letter to Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh, as the group prepares to present its Cabinet for parliamentary approval on Monday. Under Palestinian law, the president has the power to disband the government.

Mr. Abbas, who was elected separately more than a year ago, has criticized Hamas for rejecting international demands to renounce violence and recognize previous peace agreements with Israel. He believes this militant policy will harm relations with the international community. The U.S. and European Union have warned that, if Hamas does not moderate its position, they will shun the new government and cut back annual donations of nearly $1 billion to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser says a power struggle between President Abbas and the Hamas-led Cabinet was inevitable.

"I'm expecting an almost daily crisis, or a daily debate between the presidency, on one hand, and the Palestinian Cabinet on the other hand," said Nasser.

Hamas is in no hurry to accept the dictates of Mr. Abbas, because it won the January elections by a landslide.

"Hamas is arguing that, 'we were elected on different program, different platform,'" Nasser added.

That platform calls for Israel's destruction and armed resistance against the Israeli occupation.

In his letter to Hamas, Mr. Abbas said that, in respect for the democratic process, he would not exercise his right to disband the government, and would allow it to assume power. But facing the prospect of international isolation, Mr. Abbas is pressuring Hamas to take a more pragmatic approach.

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