Roundup: Abbas calls for referendum, leaving door open for dialogue

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday issued a presidential decree to hold a referendum on a prisons' document on July 26, while leaving the door open for national dialogue.

Shortly after Abbas made the announcement about the referendum on the document which implicitly recognizes Israel, thousands of women and Hamas supporters took to the street in Gaza City to protest the decree.

Waving Hamas' green flags and shouting "no" to referendum, the protestors gathered in front of the building of the Hamas- dominated parliament.

Abbas is expected to meet with Prime Minister Ismail Haneya to discuss the decree and continuation of national dialogue Saturday night, sources close to Abbas said.

The inter-Palestinian dialogue failed to bridge the gap between factions over a financial crisis and a political isolation imposed on the Hamas-led government.

"The swords of time and referendum are pointed at necks of conferees in a way that can not be accepted," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas parliamentary bloc chief Khaleel al-Haiya told reporters that Abbas' insistence on referendum is against all efforts to resume national dialogue.

Al-Haiya criticized Abbas for his decision on the referendum, while questioning vision and program of the moderate leader.

"Abu Mazen (Abbas) promised that the siege would be lifted, but we ask him 'could he lift the siege since he was elected the president or at least raise any initiative which may help end the siege," al-Haiya said.

Meanwhile, Hamas prisoners warned that they would withdraw from signature to the document, if Abbas insists on the referendum.

"We reject the referendum because this will increase differences among Palestinians in a way that totally contradicts goals of the document," Hamas prisoners said in a statement.

Khaled al-Batsh, a senior Islamic Jihad (Holy War) official in Gaza, said that referendum is not the right way to get out of the current crisis.

"For us, referendum is harming principles and it is a disgraceful violation of the way of the Palestinian struggle against the Zionist enemy," he said.

He said that the Islamic Jihad will not deal with the referendum, but the final decision will be made after consultations among Islamic Jihad leaders.

Earlier in the day, Abbas defended his call for the referendum, saying that the basic Palestinian law does not prohibit him from ordering a referendum, as it says that the people are sources of authorities.

He said that such a move will lead to lifting of a siege imposed on the Palestinians and help end a crisis facing the Palestinian people.

Source: Xinhua

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