Mahmoud Abbas: Time running out for Hamas decision on a unity government.
By JERUSALEM POST STAFF
Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he'll go for early elections if the latest round of coalition talks with Hamas fails but emphasized that early elections are not meant to oust Hamas, and that the group could win again.
Abbas also said it's time for Hamas to make up its mind whether it wants to establish a government acceptable to the West, by moderating its platform and sharing power with Abbas's Fatah Party.
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Hamas has resisted demands by the international community that it recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept existing peace agreements.
However, a foreign aid boycott would continue, unless a new Palestinian Authority government agrees on a moderate platform.
On Saturday, Abbas is to meet in Damascus with Hamas' supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, for a crucial meeting on whether Hamas will accept the terms of a coalition with Fatah.
Abbas suggested he wouldn't wait much longer for a decision by Hamas. He had said last month he would call early legislative and presidential elections if coalition talks fail.
"We say either a (unity) government or elections," he said after a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. "And elections doesn't mean we want to throw Hamas into the sea. Hamas has been elected and can be elected again. Welcome, then. But we are living in a crisis, and we all saw that the only solution is the government. But if the government is not formed, we have to ask the people."
Ahead of his meeting, Israel gave Abbas US$100 million in taxes it collects on behalf of the Palestinian government saying it would be used for humanitarian efforts and to strengthen Abbas' security forces, which are in the front lines of the fight against Hamas.
Israel froze the transfer of the money after the Hamas election victory. At a summit last month, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised to give Abbas the money - routing it to his office instead of the Hamas-controlled Finance Ministry - but the transfer only happened late Thursday, Olmert's office said.
Abbas aide Saeb Erekat welcomed the payment, but said it still only represented about 25 percent of the frozen funds.
"We need it badly, and we consider this a step in the right direction, hoping that the whole lot of money withheld will be transferred to the Palestinian Authority," he said.
Hamas has accused Abbas of trying to topple its government by calling elections.
Abbas also said the talks have run their course. "It is very clear how to get a national unity government that can break the siege," he said, referring to the aid boycott. "We need no more details."
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