Abbas calls to congratulate Olmert

Arrives in South Africa for visit including meeting with President Thabo Mbeki.

abbas 88 AP (photo credit: AP)
abbas 88 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called Ehud Olmert on Thursday to congratulate him on his victory in the Israeli elections, the Israeli prime minister's office said. Abbas called Olmert from South Africa, where he was on a trip meeting officials, the statement said. Abbas told Olmert he hoped he would be able to quickly build a ruling coalition, the statement said. Following Kadima's election victory, the acting prime minister was working to find government allies who would support his plan to draw Israel's final borders by 2010, if necessary through unilateral West Bank pullouts. Saeb Erekat, a Palestinian lawmaker, confirmed Abbas had spoken to Olmert. Abbas called on Olmert to "resume negotiations and to abandon the means of unilateralism," Erekat said. Abbas arrived in South Africa Thursday for a three-day visit including a meeting with President Thabo Mbeki and an address to parliament. The Foreign Ministry said the trip was part of efforts to "promote the peaceful resolution of conflict" by continued dialogue with both the Israelis and Palestinians. The government also invited leaders of Hamas, which took power Wednesday. Mbeki has said South Africa accepted the victory of Hamas, as it "cannot afford to challenge the consequences of a democratic process." No date had been set for the Hamas visit. Abbas, the moderate leader of the Fatah party which was defeated by Hamas, was elected separately and wields considerable power. He was due to meet representatives of South Africa's Muslim and Jewish communities and pay a courtesy visit to former President Nelson Mandela.