GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday said Mideast peace talks should resume immediately after Israel completes its Gaza withdrawal and expressed hope that a Palestinian state will be established by next year.
"We live off hope," Abbas told The Associated Press. "And we hope that a Palestinian state can be achieved next year, God willing."
In a wide-ranging interview, Abbas also pledged to bring diverse militias under central control within three weeks.
He said the U.S. has assured him that peace negotiations with Israel can resume as soon as Israel completes its withdrawal from Gaza, expected by Sept. 15. Israel has already evacuated about 9,000 Jewish settlers from Gaza and four isolated West Bank enclaves.
U.S. Embassy spokesman Stewart Tuttle said Washington sees the Israeli withdrawal "as an opportunity to re-energize the road map," referring to an internationally backed peace plan that calls for the creation of a Palestinian state. He said he had no information about a specific timetable.
Abbas said he has high hopes for the economy after the Israeli pullout, which will be finished as soon as Israel completes the withdrawal of troops.
Israel has conditioned a return to negotiations on Palestinian willingness to rein in militants, especially the Islamic Hamas group.
In a direct challenge to Abbas, Hamas' secretive military wing emerged from hiding Saturday, laying bare its command structure on its Web site, naming commanders and detailing how the group attacked Israelis. The Web posting was part of a competition with Abbas' Palestinian Authority over who will get credit for Israel's Gaza pullout.