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Home >> World
UPDATED: 09:07, June 07, 2006
Abbas extends deadline on manifesto acceptance
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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas yesterday gave the Hamas government an extra 48 hours to accept a manifesto implicitly recognising Israel, or face a referendum on the issue.

Hamas, an Islamic militant group, swept to power in January elections and has been locked in a power struggle with Abbas ever since. It rejects the manifesto penned by Palestinians in Israeli jails.

Abbas had set yesterday as the deadline for Hamas to embrace the manifesto on Palestinian statehood but delayed a showdown after what officials said were appeals by Arab leaders.

A referendum, with opinion polls suggesting most Palestinians support the document, would also be seen as a confidence vote on the Hamas government, whose election led the West and Israel to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority.

"Abbas will within 48 hours issue the decree for holding the referendum," his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdainah, said after the president met with the Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) Executive Committee.

Yasser Abed Rabo, a PLO official close to Abbas, said the president would hold a news conference by the weekend to announce a date for the vote unless Hamas changed its mind.

But despite the failure of talks late on Monday, both Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, left the door open for further dialogue.

"We demand more meetings and more dialogue and we should not start by using time as a threat," Haniyeh told his cabinet at its weekly meeting.

Abed Rabbo quoted Abbas as saying he would agree to talks with Hamas on resolving the dispute over the manifesto up until the day the referendum is held.

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a member of Hamas' exiled leadership in Syria, said Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh had offered to host negotiations between the group and Abbas's Fatah faction.

"We don't know if Fatah has accepted, but Hamas is ready to hold talks in Yemen at the highest level," Abu Marzouk said.

Hamas has said a referendum would be illegal so soon after the parliamentary election in January.

Although opinion polls favour Abbas, if the referendum goes against him it would be seen as a vote against Fatah policies of negotiation with Israel. The government might then ask Abbas to step down and urge him to call a presidential election.

The manifesto calls for a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured from Jordan and Egypt in the 1967 Middle East war.

Source: China Daily

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