Agence France Presse (AFP)
December 15, 2008 - 1:00am

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will "shortly" announce a date for presidential and parliamentary elections, his spokesman said on Sunday.

A general election is opposed by the Islamist Hamas movement which controls the Gaza Strip enclave, leaving the president's secular Fatah organisation in charge only of the West Bank region.

"The president will shortly announce the date of presidential and parliamentary elections," Nabil abu Rudeina told AFP.

Abbas said at the end of November that he would call an early general election at the beginning of 2009 unless a reconciliation agreement was reached with Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June 2007.

Hamas controls the Palestinian Authority's parliament, the mandate of which runs until January 2010. The Islamist group rejects the idea of bringing forward the general election and also insists that Abbas's own mandate runs out on January 9.

A source close to Abbas said he is likely to set a date before that deadline.

On Sunday, Hamas leaders Khaled Meshaal and Ismail Haniya said a possible reappointment of Abbas, who is supported by the international community and viewed by Israel as a peaceful partner, would be "illegal".

Rudeina said "Abbas is not seeking to renew his mandate but is working on holding elections," commenting that his legitimacy stems from his election by Palestinians by a big majority in 2005.

Reconciliation talks between Fatah and Hamas were due to take place in Cairo on November 10 but were cancelled after the Islamist movement decided to boycott them on the grounds that some of its members in the West Bank remained "political prisoners."


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