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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 July 2007, 18:01 GMT 19:01 UK
Abbas to call for new elections
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas
Mr Abbas's Fatah party was trounced by Hamas in elections in 2006
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has said he will call for new elections for parliament and the presidency.

The pledge came ahead of a meeting of the council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is expected to back the move.

The Hamas militant group, which was removed from power by Mr Abbas after it seized control of the Gaza Strip last month, opposes any new elections.

Mr Abbas appointed an emergency government based in the West Bank.

He says he will not enter talks with Hamas until its takeover of Gaza is reversed.

Sami Abu Zuhri
Abbas will not be able to hold any election on the ground without a national agreement. These decrees, if issued, will be nothing but ink on paper
Sami Abu Zuhri,

Hamas won last year's parliamentary elections.

Last month's violence has left the Palestinian territories split into two - with Hamas running Gaza and Mr Abbas, and his Fatah faction, in control in the West Bank.

Speaking in Ramallah in the West Bank, Mr Abbas said: "This is part of the powers of the presidency, to issue decrees that will have the power of law. We will issue these decrees [for new elections] soon."

However, Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Mr Abbas could not call an election without the agreement of all factions, including Hamas.

"He will not be able to hold any election on the ground without a national agreement," Abu Zuhri told the Reuters news agency. "These decrees, if issued, will be nothing but ink on paper."

Diplomatic flurry

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Ramallah says Hamas has been firmly opposed to new elections, still believing it has the right to govern because it won democratic polls last year.

But the group also fears it will not be treated fairly and will effectively be isolated further if elections are held now, our correspondent says.

Mahmoud Abbas (r) with Javier Solana
Mr Abbas (r) made his pledge as the EU's Javier Solana visited

President Abbas says he will not wait for Hamas's approval, although he does have to get the final go-ahead from the central council of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation - an umbrella group that does not include Hamas.

No timetable has been given for elections and no explanation as to how to hold them in Gaza, where the president has no control.

Mr Abbas made his announcement at a joint news conference with the European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

Mr Solana's visit is the start of a flurry of diplomatic activity.

On Thursday, members of the so-called Quartet of Middle East mediators - the US, EU, United Nations and Russia - are meeting in Portugal.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, now the Quartet's envoy, is expected in the region in the near future.

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