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(photo credit: )
The US administration is working to strengthen Mahmoud Abbas' position as Palestinian president and estimates that he will not resign in the near future and will remain in charge of negotiations with the West and Israel.
Abbas, the leader of the Fatah party which was defeated bitterly in last week's elections, was elected separately and can remain president even after his party lost its majority in the Palestinian parliament.
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The US has publicly called on Abbas not to resign and American officials expressed optimism in regard to the chances that the Palestinian president will keep up his job until the end of his term in 2009. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Abbas hours after the results of the elections were known and asked him not to resign and the President echoed this call later on in public remarks that he made.
Privately, US diplomats have also conveyed to the Palestinian president the importance they see in him staying in office, in order to keep at least one channel of communication between the US and the PA open. Formally, the president of the Palestinian Authority is in charge of foreign affairs and so, if Abbas remains, the US can still negotiate with him and discuss issues of policy and of financial aid.
"The administration needs Abbas to serve as a go-between and to inform the Palestinian leadership, now in the hands of the Hamas, what the American views and expectations are", said a Washington source close to the talks between the US and the Palestinians.
The head of the PLO mission in Washington, Afif Safieh, added that it is clear that Abbas will remain the person in charge of international affairs and that the Hamas will not try to bloc him. "Even the Hamas views Abu Mazen as the guarantee for stability and international support", Safieh told The Jerusalem Post
, "No one is interested in stopping the communication with the free world".
The American evaluation is that the Hamas will not choose to adopt the Iranian model of infuriating the West with extreme remarks and actions, but rather choose a path of openness to the outside world and even to leave the foreign relations of the PA in the hands of Abbas and the Fatah in order to avoid a crisis in the Palestinian international relations.
Evidence to the will of the Hamas to win over American public opinion could be found Tuesday in a Washington Post
op-ed by Mousa Abu-Marzook, the deputy political bureau chief of the Hamas. Abu Marzook, who resides in Damascus since being deported from the US in 1997, took a conciliatory approach to the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections and called on the American public to "judge this conflict in the light of the great thoughts, principles and ideals you hold dear in the Declaration of Independence". The senior Hamas member said in his article that the Israelis should not see the results of the elections as a threat, and added that "there must come a day when we will live together, side by side, once again".
Israeli officials pointed out that Abu Marzook still did not recognize the right of Israel to exist and did not accept in his article the two-state solution, but diplomatic sources in Washington pointed out that the Hamas is indeed showing interest in maintaining working relations with the US and the West.
President George W. Bush was expected to deal with the Hamas victory in his State of The Union speech he was to deliver Tuesday night.
According to reports from the White House, Bush would stress the need for the Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce violence if it wishes to have a dialogue with the US and to receive foreign aid. Bush was expected also to stress that the rise to power of the Hamas in the Palestinian elections does not mean that the US policy of promoting elections in the Arab world was mistaken and that he will continue to pursue democracy in the Moslem and Arab world.
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