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Palestinian President: Early Elections if No Reconciliation With Hamas


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he will call for early elections in 2009 if reconciliation talks do not succeed between rival Palestinian factions. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Jerusalem.
The split between Mahmoud Abbas' moderate Fatah group and the militant Hamas faction has virtually paralyzed the Palestinians' political system.

President Abbas addressed leaders of the Palestinian Liberation Organization meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

Mr. Abbas said his faction wants dialogue and will do its best to keep the talks going. But he said that if that dialogue does not succeed, he will - at the beginning of next year - call for presidential and parliamentary elections.

The Palestinian leader, whose term technically ends on January 9, has previously threatened to call early elections if there is no deal between his group and Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since winning elections in 2006.

Hamas rejected Abbas' calls.

The group boycotted a meeting that was planned for earlier this month by Egypt, which is mediating reconciliation talks between the two Palestinian factions.

It is not clear how new elections would be conducted, since Abbas' Fatah governs only the West Bank, while the Gaza Strip has been under the firm control of Hamas.

The split has undermined the Palestinian Authority's peace efforts with the Israelis, who view Abbas as a moderate with whom they can negotiate. Israel rejects Hamas because it refuses to renounce violence and does not recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

Some in Israel oppose early elections in the Palestinian territories out of concern that Hamas might win any new poll.

An Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz, published details of a defense paper to be presented next month, recommending that Israel prevent elections in the Palestinian territories.

The document warns that the disappearance of Mahmoud Abbas from the Palestinian political scene might cause the Palestinian Authority to collapse, killing prospects for a two-state solution.