Fatah threatens early elections after Qatari plan fails

dpa German Press Agency
Published: Tuesday October 10, 2006

Gaza- An aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas threatened early elections Tuesday after the latest talks on the formation of a unity government between his Fatah party and the ruling Hamas movement ended in deadlock. Speaking to reporters in Gaza after talks between the two sides brokered by the prime minister of Qatar, senior Fatah official Yasser Abed Rabbo said the two parties still had differences on "basic issues" and were "not close" to reaching a deal.

The Qatari plan was the "final effort" to reach a unity government and its failure would lead to a call for early elections, he said.

Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad Ben Jassem al-Thani left Gaza Tuesday morning after having failed in his efforts to broker an agreement between the radical Hamas and the more moderate Fatah.

Hamas said Tuesday that it rejected two vital clauses of Qatar's six-point proposal, one calling for a renunciation of violence and another calling for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Hamas government told the Qatari minister that it would not accept the solution "because Israel rejected it from the outset and does not recognize the Palestinian people's rights," Hamas cabinet spokesman Ghazi Hamad told reporters in Gaza.

As for "renouncing terrorism," Hamad said the world should make a distinction between terrorism and resisting occupation.

Al-Thani arrived in Gaza Monday night through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, after earlier having held talks with exiled Hamas leaders in Damascus. He first presented his initiative to President Abbas in a two-hour meeting and then put it to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya.

He later returned to Abbas with a negative answer from the Hamas leader.

"There are two points that we had failed to agree upon. I hope that we will agree on them in the nearest future, but I can say that these two points are still an obstacle," al-Thani told reporters in Gaza early Tuesday.

The Qatari initiative stipulated that a Hamas-Fatah unity government must end all violence and seek guarantees on the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, which would live side-by-side with Israel,

It did not demand an explicit recognition of Israel, but said the government should accept all past agreements signed by Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) with Israel.

Fatah's warning of possible early elections comes after Abbas himself hinted last week at dissolving the Hamas-led government of Haniya if the militant group did not change its position.

He could then appoint someone else to form a new government, but a new cabinet would still have to be approved by the Hamas-dominated parliament. Such a move could therefore result in another impasse.

Hamas unexpectedly won 74 out of 132 seats in January parliamentary elections. Abbas had been elected separately in presidential elections a year earlier.

Abbas had hoped that a unity government with a more moderate platform would steer the Palestinian Authority out of the international isolation and severe financial crisis it has sunk into since Hamas took office more than six months ago.

Israeli soldiers, meanwhile, shot dead a Palestinian and wounded another during a military incursion in the southern Gaza Strip early Tuesday.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said troops operating in the area of al-Shouka, near the town of Rafah, opened fire at two armed militants who approached them.

Israeli forces have been operating on and off in the southern and northern Gaza Strip since militants of the Hamas armed wing and two other groups abducted an Israeli soldier from an army outpost bordering the strip.

© 2006 dpa German Press Agency