May 29, 2006

Mahmoud Abbas


From Reuters: Hamas leader Zahar rejects Abbas referendum plan.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar on Monday rejected as a waste of time and money the referendum President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will call unless Hamas changes its policy toward Israel.

Zahar is a senior Hamas leader, and his remarks were the Islamic militant group's clearest rejection yet of a referendum, underlining the widening rift between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas, the governing party since it won elections in January.

"This process needs money, we have no money. Nobody will recognize Israel, there is no need for a referendum," Zahar told Reuters during a visit to Malaysia for a meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement.

The United States and its allies have cut off aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority to put pressure on Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel and abide by interim peace deals. The Hamas charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

On Thursday, Abbas set a 10-day deadline for Hamas to accept his proposal that the Palestinians agree to a peace settlement if Israel withdraws from all of the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem, occupied since the 1967 Middle East war.

Abbas said that if Hamas refused to back the proposal, he would call a referendum on it in July.

Abbas opened talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Sunday with Hamas militants and other factions, trying to persuade them to accept the proposal.

But Hamas's official representative did not attend Monday's session, saying he was blocked by Israeli checkpoints.

Hamas has demanded that the talks be moved to Gaza, its political stronghold, but has already rejected Abbas's 10-day deadline and scorned his peace proposal, which was drawn up by Palestinian leaders held in Israeli jails.

Posted by Forkum at May 29, 2006 09:33 PM