Abbas calls for early polls
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has said he decided to call for early presidential and parliamentary elections to resolve an unprecedented political crisis with ruling Hamas.
"Basic law stipulates that the people are the source of power," he said. "Let the people have their say and decide.
"I will talk as quickly as possible with the central elections commission to launch the preparations for the ballot," he said.
Abbas dismissed warnings the early polls would lead to civil war between the Palestinians.
"Despite the suffering, the pain, the confrontations whoever is responsible for them, we will not allow ourselves to sink into a civil war," he said. "Palestinian blood will rest a border that will not be crossed."
The governing Hamas movement immediately rejected Abbas's announcement.
Wasfi Kabha, the minister of prisoners affairs, said: "Our priority is to form a national unity government. It is the only solution. We reject anything which complicates the Palestinian situation."
Hamas, which surprised Fatah to win parliamentary elections in January, had earlier said it would regard any call for fresh elections as a coup.
A senior aide to Abbas said on Saturday that early elections could be held until the middle of next year for legal and technical reasons.
Saeb Erekat said Abbas first had to issue a presidential decree covering the early parliamentary and presidential polls. After that, voter rolls would need 90 days to be updated.
"Technically, the elections cannot be held before mid-2007," Erekat told Reuters