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Palestinian President Calls on Hamas to Accept Early Elections

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has renewed his call for Hamas militants to accept early elections. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, internal Palestinian clashes in Gaza have killed at least six Palestinians.

During the past few days clashes between Hamas militants and backers of Mr. Abbas' Fatah movement have increased in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking in the West Bank, Mr. Abbas called for Hamas to return to a dialogue with Fatah.

Mr. Abbas says it is time for a new page to be turned in Palestinian relations, saying Hamas should accept his offer of dialogue. He also called for Hamas to cede its control of Gaza and agree to early elections.

A Hamas spokesman immediately rejected Mr. Abbas' call, saying there were no practical steps that could be taken at the present time to start such a dialogue.

In his remarks, Mr. Abbas again called for Israel stop settlement construction in the West Bank.

Speaking on Israeli radio, Israeli Cabinet member and Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon said Israel should dismantle illegal outposts in the West Bank.

Ramon says Israel should move immediately to dismantle all outposts built after 2000, because not to do so could raise tensions between the United States and Israel during President George Bush's upcoming visit to the region.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Jerusalem Post newspaper, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel might have to share Jerusalem with Palestinians in an eventual peace agreement. Israel captured Arab East Jerusalem in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War and considers the entire city its eternal capital. Palestinians want Arab East Jerusalem to be the capital of a future Palestinian state.

President Bush travels to the Middle East in less than two weeks in a bid to encourage Israeli and Palestinian negotiators to step up progress towards a negotiated peace settlement - something Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to do at the U.S. sponsored Annapolis peace conference last November.