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Last Updated: Sunday, 26 February 2006, 17:57 GMT
Palestinian leader issues warning
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has warned he could resign from office if he feels too many constraints under a Hamas government.

"We could reach a point where I cannot perform my duty," Mr Abbas said in an interview with UK broadcaster ITV.

Hamas capitalised on dissatisfaction with Mr Abbas's Fatah faction to win parliamentary elections in January.

PM-designate Ismail Haniya responded to Mr Abbas's warning by saying that Hamas was willing to work with him.

Mr Abbas wants the militant group to renounce violence and recognise Israel's right to exist before taking power.

Peace building

In remarks broadcast on the British TV channel on Sunday, Mr Abbas said if he was no longer able to pursue his peacemaking agenda he would quit.

"I will not continue sitting in this place, against and in spite of my convictions," he is quoted as saying. "If I can do something I will continue, otherwise I won't."

Hamas Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya
Ismail Haniya is a pragmatist in Hamas ranks
Mr Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority for a four-year term in January 2005.

Hamas expects to complete forming a new government under Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya within two weeks.

Responding to Mr Abbas' comments, Mr Haniya said his party was keen for the president to continue in office - and would be interested in co-operation and dialogue with him.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says that while there is no indication that Hamas intends to lay down arms and recognise Israel, it still believes it can work with Mr Abbas.

Hamas says it shares similar views to Mr Abbas on the need to reform Palestinian society, our correspondent says.

The group also believes its differences with Mr Abbas over policy towards Israel need not lead to a major crisis, because there are currently no meaningful peace talks in prospect to put the relationship under strain, he adds.

Recognising Israel

Mr Haniya sought on Sunday to distance himself from an interview in Saturday's Washington Post, in which he was quoted as saying Hamas was ready to "recognise Israel" if the Palestinians were given a state.

He told reporters the subject of recognising Israel had not come up in the interview.

"If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognise them," he was reported as saying by the Washington Post.

Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since the start of the second intifada in 2000.

It is currently maintaining a ceasefire, but remains committed to the armed struggle and the destruction of Israel.

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