August 26, 2009 / 2:38 PM / 10 years ago

Abbas to call election if talks with Hamas fail

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas walks to address the 63rd United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York September 26, 2008. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday he would press ahead with a January parliamentary and presidential election opposed by the rival Hamas movement if reconciliation efforts failed.

“We are still offering the same proposal, but if it’s refused, then the sole alternative is to go to presidential and parliamentary elections,” Abbas said, referring to a unity government including his secular Fatah party and Islamist Hamas.

Abbas was speaking at the first meeting of the Palestinian National Council (PNC) in 13 years.

More than 300 members of the PNC, the top legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization, convened to determine how to replace, whether by appointment or vote, six deceased members of the PLO’s 18-member Executive Committee.

Hamas, which won a 2006 parliamentary election and seized control of the Gaza Strip a year later in fighting with Fatah, says it will not accept a new poll in January unless a “package deal” is reached with Abbas’ party.

“Going to an election without a (unity) accord is not acceptable because it will not be based upon a national agreement,” Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas official, said in Gaza.

He said that without a reconciliation deal, Hamas would not allow a ballot to be held in the Gaza Strip. Hamas opposes the Western-backed Abbas’ peace efforts with Israel.

Egyptian mediation stretching over more than a year has failed to secure a deal on forming a unity government, restructuring security services, ending political arrests in the Gaza Strip and West Bank and establishing an election mechanism.

(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza)

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