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Saturday, December 9, 2006

PLO officials: Abbas to dismiss parliament, call early elections

Last update - 16:24 09/12/2006

PLO officials: Abbas to dismiss parliament, call early elections
By Haaretz Service and News Agencies

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said he would dismiss
the parliament and call early elections to end a political impasse with Hamas,
but left the door open to reaching a compromise with the Islamic militant
group, PLO officials said.

Abbas announced his decision at a meeting of the PLO's powerful executive
committee, and plans to deliver a formal nationwide speech next week,
participants said.

"At the end of the speech, he is going to announce that he will resort to
early presidential and legislative elections but will keep the door open" for
forming a unity government with Hamas, said committee member Khalida Jarar.
Months of unity talks between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement broke down last

Participants in Saturday's meeting said Abbas has not set a deadline for
holding the new election. "We had an intense discussion on various options,
and from what we heard, he is leaning toward going back to the people with a
call for early presidential and legislative elections," said Palestinian
negotiator Saeb Erekat.

Another official close to Abbas said the election would likely be held in four
or five months. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal
decision hasn't been made.

On Friday, Abbas advisor Ahmed Abdel Rahman said that if Hamas wants to be
part of a Palestinian unity government, it will need to abide by agreements
the PLO has signed in the past, an act which would imply recognition of

Abdel Rahman's statement was made in response to remarks made Friday by
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in Tehran, that his
Hamas-led government would never recognize Israel and would continue to fight
for the "liberation of Jerusalem."

"I can't criticize him [Haniyeh] when he is speaking in the name of Hamas. But
if he is speaking as prime minister, he should abide by the national agenda,"
Abdel Rahman said.

David Baker, an official in Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office, said Friday
that Haniyeh's comments were "precisely the type of extremist rhetoric that
fuels terror and has prevents any chance of progress between Israel and the

Hamas' exiled political leader, Khaled Meshal, said Friday that Hamas had made
"a lot of concessions" to forming a new government, but that every time it met
with Fatah "we discovered new things [conditions] aimed at placating the U.S."

In a speech at the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, Meshal said
that the release of an Israeli soldier captured by Hamas this summer would
only come through a swap of Palestinians held by Israel, adding, "You should
know that either you respond to our demands or we are going to an open
conflict and victory will be ours."

The head of Hamas' political bureau said that all of the Palestinian factions
have reached a consensus on the establishment of a Palestinian state based on
the borders before the 1967 Six Day War, adding that there would be no further

Meshal said that all the Palestinians are now agreed on the establishment of a
state "taking into consideration the right of return, Jerusalem and the
release of all detainees."

"But the far goal is the liberation of Palestine and that's our strategic
choice," he added. "Our acceptance of this is not a result of weakness and
failure. Israel and the United States would be deluding themselves if they
think that the Palestinian people are not capable of doing other than this."

"It is in the interest of the U.S. and Israel to accept talking to us on this
solution because the coming generations might not accept this solution,"
Meshal said, adding "if they want to stop bloodshed in the region, they should
subjugate to the Palestinian will."

"We are ready now more than any other time in the past. The Zionists should
know that nothing would stop us. The time of compromises has already gone."

In the Gaza Strip, tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied on Friday,
demanding that Haniyeh head any Palestinian unity government, despite a deal
for him to step aside as a means of restoring Western aid.

The public show of support for Haniyeh puts pressure on the ruling militant
movement to retain him as its candidate to lead a any future cabinet.

That would further complicate talks over forming a unity government talks that
Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction, has said are at a dead end.

"We want you [Haniyeh] to be the prime minister. We will not abandon your
leadership of the cabinet," Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, told the rally
held in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza City.

"We demand the leadership of Hamas retain... Ismail Haniyeh as head of the
government and head any incoming government."

Earlier Friday, Haniyeh addressed Iranian students at the Tehran University.

"The arrogant of the world and the Zionists... want us to recognize the
usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept
the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," he said.

"I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will
never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our
jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.

Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Thursday for talks with Iranian leaders,
including hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state-run media reported.
This is Haniyeh's first tour abroad since Hamas took power in March.

Haniyeh praised the Iranians during his visit for the aid they have given the

"They [Israelis] assume the Palestinian nation is alone. This is an
illusion... We have a strategic depth in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This
country [Iran] provides our powerful, dynamic and stable depth," he said.

Iran has provided the Hamas-led Palestinian government with $120 million this
year despite a U.S.-led international financial boycott of the Palestinian
government. The financial aid has boosted Iran's influence among Palestinians.

The Palestinian prime minister will also meet with Supreme Leader Ayatollah
Ali Khamenei and former president Hashemi Rafsanjani, the official Islamic
Republic News Agency reported.

"Muslims and independence-seeking nations support the Palestinians because
they have adopted the correct position towards the occupiers," Iranian First
Vice President Parviz Davoudi told Haniyeh at the start of his four-day visit
to Iran.

"Iran is ready to offer its valuable achievements and experiences in different
fields to the Palestinian nation," the official IRNA news agency quoted
Davoudi as saying.

Iran's support for the Palestinians has grown more vocal since Ahmadinejad
came to power in August 2005. The former Revolutionary Guardsman has called
the Israeli state a "tumor" which must be "wiped off the map".

Haniyeh, whose tour was also to include Syria, said Palestinian resistance
against Israel would continue. "The popular Palestinian government not only
has not recognized the occupiers but also considers resistance the natural
right of the Palestinian nation."

The so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators - the United States, European
Union, United Nations, and Russia - is pressing Hamas to recognize Israel,
renounce violence, and accept previous agreements signed between Israel and
the Palestinian Authority.

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