Abbas 'Threatens' to Call Early Elections

Ad Feedback - RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to call for early presidential and legislative elections if Fatah and Hamas have not settled their differences by year's end.

While Abbas's term in office ends January 9, the Palestinian Legislative Council would remain intact until January 2010. Hamas is not eager to hold legislative elections after having trumped Fatah in January 2007.

"We are very keen on the dialogue ," Abbas told PLO Central Council representatives on Sunday, "but if the dialogue fails, there will be a presidential decree for holding simultaneous parliamentary and presidential elections at the beginning of next year," he said.

Hamas officials scoffed at his declaration, vowing to make good on their promise to appoint the head of the PLC as interim president the day after Abbas's term ends.

"Yes, we will have two presidents in January," Damascus-based Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzuk said.

"Abbas will lose his legitimacy and credibility after January 10, and he will become president of the West Bank only," he said.

Gaza-based Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar said the PA president was not authorized to extend his term nor dissolve the legislature, and he summarily dismissed any decisions by the PLO Central Council.

"The resolutions of this body are nonbinding," al-Zahar said. "This body has lost all its credibility and its decisions apply only to Fatah," he said.

Meanwhile, exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal spoke out against the full-page ad Abbas published in the three leading Hebrew-language newspapers outlining the main points of the Saudi-sponsored Arab peace initiative.

"Our people's legitimate rights are not goods to be marketed," Mashaal told participants of a Palestinian conference in Damascus.

"National leaders are not merchants who announce their goods through paid ads in Israeli newspapers," he said.

Mashaal also denounced Abbas's negotiations with Israel, citing ongoing Israeli "crimes" in Gaza and the West Bank.

Mashaal said the PA president was not "qualified" nor authorized to negotiate with Israel on his own.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz

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