Archive for Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Abbas pushes elections

December 19, 2006

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— Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he will push ahead with new elections despite a wave of factional fighting between his Fatah party and the rival Islamic group Hamas.

With British Prime Minister Tony Blair by his side, Abbas also reached out to Israel in hopes momentum toward peacemaking would provide an electoral edge over Hamas. The United States tentatively endorsed Abbas' call for early elections.

Tensions threatened to explode into more violence in the Gaza Strip late Monday after a Fatah supporter was killed in a gunfight and a senior Fatah official was seized briefly by Hamas militants. The unrest followed a relative lull after the sides declared a truce Sunday.

Hamas and Fatah have been locked in a power struggle since the Islamic group defeated Fatah in legislative elections in January. Abbas' Fatah party controls the presidency, while Hamas controls parliament and the Palestinian Cabinet, putting it in charge of most government functions.

The latest fighting erupted after the three young sons of a Fatah security officer were gunned down last week, and worsened following Abbas' announcement Saturday that he would call new elections.

At a joint news conference with Blair in Ramallah, Abbas said the violence would not deter him from going ahead with presidential and legislative elections, perhaps this summer - several years ahead of schedule.

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