Abbas Snubs Hamas, to Stay in Office to 2010

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said he will remain in office until 2010, a decision likely to stoke tensions with Islamist Hamas rivals who oppose his peace talks with Israel.

"I think that the elections for parliament and the presidency should take place together, in January 2010. We will decide, and issue a presidential order accordingly," Abbas told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, in an interview published on Sunday.

Abbas’s Fatah faction says Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections should be held together in 2010. Hamas, which defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006, says Abbas’s term ends on Jan. 9, 2009.

Holding elections in 2010 would give Abbas more time to pursue peace talks with Israel. Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched negotiations in November with the aim of reaching a deal by early next year.

Abbas said it was too early to say whether he would seek another term.

Any unilateral decree from Abbas will likely prompt a Hamas response. Hamas leaders said they will not recognize Abbas as president after January.

Abbas, who was elected in Jan. 2005, argues that Palestinian election law, approved before Hamas’s rise to power, allows for the contests to be held at the same time, in 2010. Palestinian Basic Law says the president’s term is four years.

A senior leader from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad recently warned that if the factions do not reach agreement soon on a target election date, further violence would erupt.

Hamas violently seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Fatah forces. Abbas later dismissed a Hamas-led government and appointed a new administration in the occupied West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.

(Agencies via Alarbiya.net)

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