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Abbas May Call for Palestinian Elections

VOA, November 23, 2008

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas says he may call early parliamentary and presidential elections if a reconciliation deal is not reached between his Fatah faction and its rival, Hamas.

Mr. Abbas says if the dialogue does not succeed, he will call for elections early next year.

The Palestinian leader made the comments to a meeting of his Palestine Liberation Organization Sunday in Ramallah.

On Saturday, Mr. Abbas urged U.S. President-elect Barack Obama to support an Arab peace plan that offers Israel recognition in exchange for a withdrawal from occupied lands.

The Arab peace initiative was first proposed in 2002 by dozens of Arab countries who do not have ties to Israel. Egypt and Jordan are currently the only countries that recognize Israel.

Mr. Abbas said under the plan, Israel would live in a "sea of peace" with the Arab world, instead of in an "island of peace." He made the remarks Saturday during a conference in the West Bank city of Nablus.

The Palestinian leader's party recently ran Hebrew-language ads in Israeli newspapers to promote the peace proposal. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has welcomed the plan as a positive gesture, but says changes are needed on the status of Jerusalem and the fate of Palestinian refugees.

In another development, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said members of the international Middle East quartet (which consists of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union) may meet to discuss the peace process before the year's end. He made the comments Saturday after meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Peru.

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