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Imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti harshly criticized Hamas for what he called a "bloody coup" with its takeover of Gaza in remarks released Monday, urging the Islamic group to accept early elections to settle internal Palestinian differences.
Barghouti said in written answers to questions passed on to him by his lawyer that Hamas is the only exception to a national consensus on holding early elections. The answers were given to The Associated Press early Monday.
Barghouti, serving five consecutive life terms for murder in an Israeli prison, is a leading potential successor to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, who is seeking Barghouti's release in a prisoners exchange with Israel.
"The bloody coup" by Hamas has clearly "destroyed the bridges" between Hamas and Fatah, he wrote.
"The ball is in the court of Hamas. It hasn't initiated anything and is monopolizing rule in the strip, using force," he wrote. "It is clear that the road for dialogue is closed."
"The military coup carried out by Hamas dealt a big blow to the nascent democratic experience," he said. "We should head toward presidential and parliamentary elections at the same time. This should be done as a way out of the current crisis. Hamas should approve these elections."
On Sunday Abbas changed the Palestinian electoral system to boost Fatah, but aides admitted he could not call an election with Hamas in control of Gaza.
But Barghouti also warned if Fatah doesn't hold internal elections and carry out internal reforms, elections could endanger the group's role in the territories.