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Palestinian President May Call for Early Elections


Aides to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas say he may call for early elections Saturday, as violence between his Fatah party and the ruling Hamas faction has stirred fears of a civil war.

Mr. Abbas is expected to give a speech in the West Bank town of Ramallah. A call for early elections would follow a collapse of talks with Hamas on forming a unity government.

Hamas' cabinet said it would boycott the speech. The militant group has warned that early elections would amount to a coup.

On Friday, at least 32 people were injured when Hamas and Fatah gunmen clashed in Ramallah. The fighting followed accusations by Hamas that Fatah gunmen tried to assassinate Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh.

An attack Thursday on Mr. Haniyeh's convoy near the Egypt-Gaza border crossing killed one of his bodyguards. Fatah has denied involvement in the attack.

In Damascus, Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Meshal, called for restraint between Fatah and Hamas. He said in a radio interview that the Palestinians' battle is against what he called the Israeli occupation, and said they will not be dragged into a civil war.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan urged Hamas and Fatah to resolve their differences peacefully and to foster national unity.

Fatah and Hamas are locked in a power struggle. Hamas won legislative elections in January. Fatah still controls the presidency.

The United States, the European Union and Israel consider Hamas a terrorist group.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters

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