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Report: Abbas to offer January elections

Oct. 21, 2011 12:04 P.M. (Updated: Oct. 30, 2011 5:06 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas will propose elections in upcoming meetings with Hamas officials, Time Magazine reported on Thursday.

"We're suggesting January, because the law requires 90 days notice," Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh told Time.

The reconciliation agreement signed on May 4 by the president's Fatah party and Hamas set out plan for a unity government of technocrats, the release of political prisoners and holding of elections.

Implementation has stalled as the sides dispute the candidates for the joint government, notably current chief of the Ramallah-based government Salam Fayyad, whom Hamas rejects.

Abu Rudaineh said Abbas would suggest a direct move to elections when he meets with Hamas officials in Egypt in early November. While Abbas is traveling to Cairo on Saturday, he will not have time to meet with Hamas officials until next month, the president told Time.

Abbas has been overshadowed by the recent prisoner swap agreed between Israel and Hamas, which will free over 1,000 prisoners in two months after captured soldier Gilad Shalit returned to Israel on Tuesday.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised Abbas that Israel would release more prisoners in a good will gesture to the president after a deal to release Shalit was concluded, the president told Time.

Abbas said he would ask Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to honor the pledge "within two or three days," though expressing skepticism that the premier would accept.

Abbas insisted: "I'm not going to argue with him or not negotiate with him or to talk in details about it. Either, or."

Long-standing rivalry between the factions erupted into all-out fighting in 2007, after Hamas won elections in 2006 and went on to oust Fatah from the Gaza Strip, effectively splitting from the Palestinian administration in Ramallah.

Local and national elections have been repeatedly postponed over the past five years, as the rivals struggle to agree over terms and accuse each other of suppressing political expression in the areas they govern.
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