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Thursday, December 7, 2006

PLO-appointed panel urges dissolution of gov't, early elections

Last update - 11:32 07/12/2006

PLO-appointed panel urges dissolution of gov't, early elections

By The Associated Press

A panel appointed by the Palestine Liberation Organization has recommended
that moderate Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, dissolve the
militant Hamas-led government and call new elections as early as March, an
official close to the president said.

Abbas sought the committee's recommendations after declaring last week that
his efforts to form a more moderate coalition government with Hamas had
reached a dead end.

Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel has provoked harsh international economic
sanctions, and Abbas hoped a new government would persuade the West and Israel
to get desperately needed funding flowing again.

Hamas defeated Abbas' Fatah party in parliamentary elections early this year.
Abbas, a moderate who favors peace talks with Israel, was elected separately
last year.

On Wednesday night, Abbas met with the committee for five hours to discuss the
options available to him, the official said, speaking on condition of
anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss private talks with the

Saeb Erekat, an Abbas confidant, said it was "premature to jump to any
conclusions about the options," but said Abbas would deliver a speech next
week outlining his course of action.

Abbas will meet on Saturday with the PLO's main decision-making body to
discuss strategy, Erekat said.

Hamas denounced the notion of early elections.

"Any step like that would be a circumvention of the decision of the
Palestinian people on Jan. 25, when they elected Hamas to be their
representative," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza.

"Our position remains unchanged: We are opening the door to talks to achieve
an agreement on a unity government," Barhoum said. "It is Fatah that is
stopping these talks."

Abbas has two options if he concludes the current government cannot go on, and
a coalition government won't be formed. Early elections were one alternative,
another being to dissolve the government and try to form another Cabinet
without another round of balloting.

Both are problematic as far as Abbas is concerned, but the panel apparently
thinks early elections would be preferable.

Polls have signaled that Fatah, which is dogged by corruption and patronage,
would again lose to Hamas in new elections. But to avoid new balloting, Abbas
would have to win parliamentary approval for a new Cabinet - and that would be
unlikely because Hamas dominates the legislature.

Abbas is to meet with the PLO's main decision-making body, the executive
committee, to discuss whether to adopt the panel's recommendation, the
official said.

Abbas plans to present his decision in a speech next week to the Palestinian
people, the official said.

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