Erekat resigns as PA announces September elections

Chief peace negotiator steps down in response to Al-Jazeera leaks; Hamas says it will refuse to take part in elections in Gaza.

Saeb Erekat 311 AP (photo credit: AP)
Saeb Erekat 311 AP
(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' chief peace negotiator, Saeb Erekat, announced his resignation on Saturday. The move came in response to damaging leaks by pan-Arab satellite television station Al-Jazeera that detailed some of the inner workings of previous peace negotiations.
Erekat told The Associated Press that an investigation determined that internal documents obtained by Al-Jazeera were leaked by someone from his office. "If there was any security failure in my office, then I am responsible. For that, I have resigned," he said.
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Also on Saturday, Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo announced that Palestinians will hold presidential and legislative elections by September. Abed Rabbo did not give a firm date for elections, but said the chief Palestinian decision-making body, the Palestine Liberation Organization, was already making preparations.
"We call on parties to put aside all of their differences and to focus on conducting the elections by September at the latest," he told a news conference.
Abed Rabbo spoke a day after Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in response to nearly three weeks of mass protests against his 30-year rule. The Egyptian protests and another successful revolt in Tunisia a month earlier have inspired calls for democratic reform throughout a region dominated by autocratic governments.
In Gaza, a Hamas official said Saturday that they would not allow elections in the coastal strip.
"Hamas will not participate or recognize or give any cover for this election and we consider this announcement a conspiracy against the Palestinian people," said spokesman Fawzi Barhoum. "Hamas believes in elections but elections can come only after (political) reconciliation.