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Abbas Postpones Referendum Recognizing Israel


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Tuesday extended a deadline he had set earlier for Hamas to recognize Israel or face a referendum on the question. Mr. Abbas has now reportedly given Hamas two more days to accept a plan to recognize the Jewish state.

The Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee voted to give Hamas until Thursday to accept a measure that recognizes Israel and accept a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian dispute - or face a national referendum on the issue.

Speaking to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah following the executive committee's meeting, Yasser Abed Rabbo, a close associate of Mr. Abbas, said the decision to extend the deadline by two days came after a number of Arab States appealed for more time.

Abed Rabbo says the executive committee agreed that Mr. Abbas can call a referendum on the measure if Hamas does not agree by Thursday to a plan drawn up Palestinian prisoners that calls for recognition of Israel and acceptance of a two-state solution to the Israeli Palestinian dispute.

If Hamas does not agree to the measure Mr. Abbas says he will call a national referendum in 40 days to decide the matter. Members of Hamas and Mr. Abbas' Fatah Party have been holding talks for more than a week on the proposal - so far without agreement. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh says Hamas will continue talking with Fatah to try and reach some sort of an agreement.

Haniyeh says the issues under discussion are too important to be quickly agreed to, and that no deadlines should be put on the discussions.

Since winning parliamentary elections in January, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel, disarm or recognize previous agreements between Israel and the Palestinians. As a result international donor aid and money transfers to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian government have been suspended.

A poll released Tuesday by Bir Zeit University in Ramallah finds that 77-percent of Palestinians support Mr. Abbas' call for a referendum.

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