Abbas sets Palestinian polls date
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has announced that presidential and
parliamentary elections will be held on 24 January.His office said in a
statement that the polls would take place across the Palestinian
territories, including the rival Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.Mr. Abbas's
Fatah faction, which runs the West Bank, has so far failed to reach a
reconciliation with Hamas.
The Palestinian leader's presidential term expired earlier this
year.Hamas officials said Mr. Abbas's election call would deepen
divisions between their faction and Fatah.
"This is an illegal and unconstitutional step because Abu Mazen's
[Mr. Abbas's] tenure is over and he has no right to issue any decree
concerning this," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum told AFP news agency.
Hamas won a landslide victory in the last parliamentary elections in
2006.A bitter power struggle between Fatah and Hamas ensued, and in 2007
Hamas staged a violent takeover of Gaza.
In recent months Egypt has tried to broker a unity deal between the
two factions.Hamas has so far refused to sign up to Egyptian proposals
accepted by Fatah, though Hamas officials have denied stalling on an
agreement.Mr. Abbas had said he would call elections even if no unity
deal was reached. -BBC