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Abbas calls meeting to discuss Obama speech

May 19, 2011 9:35 P.M. (Updated: May 21, 2011 12:39 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma’an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas has called an urgent meeting following US President Barack Obama’s speech on the Middle East on Thursday, a PLO official said.

Saeb Erekat said Abbas appreciated Obama's efforts to reach a comprehensive solution to the conflict and his remarks on the right to self-determination and dignity.

Erekat said the Palestinians remained committed to all previous agreements with Israel, "hoping that the Israeli government will do the same, to give the peace process the chance it deserves."

But his tentative partners in the Islamist Hamas movement immediately called on Obama to take "concrete steps" not merely issue "slogans" in support of Palestinian independence and an end to Israeli occupation.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, however, said Obama's speech amounted to "throwing dust in the eyes." Hamas, he said, calls on the Palestinian leadership not to hang its hopes on the speech and to coordinate with Palestinian factions to confront "US-Israeli arrogance."

In a key speech at the State Department in Washington, Obama called for a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders but said a bid for UN recognition of a unilateral proclamation of statehood would not work.

The Hamas movement, which rules the Gaza Strip and this month signed a surprise unity agreement with Abbas's Fatah party, took a less cautious approach, responding immediately to Obama's address.

"What Obama needs to do is not to add slogans but to take concrete steps to protect the rights of the Palestinian people and the Arab nation," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

AFP contributed to this report.
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