- Title: WEST BANK: Hamas rejects Abbas' call for referendum on Palestinian statehood
- Date: 6th June 2006
- Summary: NEWS CONFERENCE ENDING
- Embargoed: 21st June 2006 13:00
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA3YGMX9WLYV9ZV0VDNWYZJN2GL
- Story Text: Hamas leaders convened a news conference on Monday night (June 5) after hearing Fatah officials said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will call a referendum on a statehood proposal that implicitly recognises Israel.
In the news conference, held in Gaza city, a Hamas spokesman urged Abbas to hold off issuing a decree, saying talks on the proposal had not yet been exhausted.
"I want to stress again our movement's desire for the talks to be a success. There are other factions that wanted these talks to fail so that matters move towards a referendum," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri.
The referendum, expected in July, will be seen as a confidence vote in the new government and its policy of refusing to recognise Israel, which has led Western countries to impose crippling economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.
Abbas had given the Hamas Islamic militants until midnight to embrace a manifesto drawn up by prisoners in an Israeli jail.
Hamas has rejected the document, which implicitly recognises Israel by calling for a state on land occupied by the Jewish state in the 1967 Middle East war. It has said a referendum would be illegal, setting the stage for a showdown with Abbas.
Abbas would set the date for the referendum after meeting the executive committee of the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) on Tuesday, his office said in a statement, carried by the Palestinian WAFA news agency.
Hamas beat Abbas's Fatah movement in parliamentary elections in January. The Islamist militants took office in March and have been locked in a power struggle with Abbas ever since.
With shootouts between Hamas and Fatah now frequent, many Palestinians fear a referendum could trigger more violence.
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