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Abbas angry 248.88 CHECK CAPTION.(Photo by: AP)
Hamas: Early elections to kill peace process
Khaled Abu Toameh
Group also calls for early W. Bank elections, insists Abbas step down when his term expires in Jan.
Hamas called on Sunday for elections in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and said the talk about early elections in Israel means the peace process has failed. Hamas insists that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas step down when his four-year term expires in January. However, Abbas has indicated more than once that he intends to remain in power for at least an additional year. Muhammad Abed, legal adviser to Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, called on Abbas to instruct the PA's Central Elections Committee to start preparing for presidential elections. He pointed out that the committee needs at least three months to prepare for the vote. "We urge Abbas to issue a presidential decree entrusting the elections committee to start immediately preparing for elections," Abed said. "We want to avoid a situation where there would be a vacuum in the leadership when Abbas's term in office expires." He added that Abbas was entitled to run for another four-year term. A senior PA official in Ramallah dismissed Hamas's call as "totally unacceptable." He said the next presidential elections should be held in concurrence with the parliamentary elections scheduled for January 2010. "Hamas has no right to talk about holding new elections," the official told The Jerusalem Post. "Hamas came to power through a bloody coup in the Gaza Strip and as such they don't have the right to make any demands regarding elections." Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni's call for early elections reflects the failure of the peace process. "Now the Israelis will use the elections as an excuse not to make any concessions to Mahmoud Abbas," Abu Zuhri said. "They will claim that they are too busy with the elections over the next few months." He added that Livni's decision was a "severe blow" to Abbas and all the Palestinians who continued to believe in the peace process. "This proves that Hamas was right when it said that the so-called peace process was a waste of time and that there's no point in negotiating with the occupation [Israel]," he said. Abbas, meanwhile, is expected to visit Egypt and Saudi Arabia in the coming days for talks on ways of ending the Hamas-Fatah power struggle. The meetings will also focus on the political crisis in Israel and Livni's decision to call early elections. Sources close to Abbas said Sunday that he was "worried" that Livni's move would damage the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. "The latest developments in Israel show that we should not expect any progress in the peace talks because the Israelis will be too busy with the elections," said one source. The source also expressed fear that Likud Chairman Benyamin Netanyahu would win the next elections. "If Netanyahu becomes the next prime minister, we will have to declare the peace process dead," he said. "Netanyahu will be a disaster for both Jews and Arabs."
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