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Hamas 'too vague' on peace agenda: Abbas

Abbas, who has urged Hamas to adopt his vision of negotiated peace with Israel, gave it two more weeks to clarify its position.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 18:21 IST

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has told Hamas its response to his call to follow his peace agenda in government is too vague, officials said on Saturday.

Abbas, who has urged Hamas to adopt his vision of negotiated peace with Israel, gave it two more weeks to clarify its position.

He must approve Hamas's political programme before it presents an administration to parliament for a confidence vote.

Palestinian officials said Hamas prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh handed Abbas on Friday the group's written response to a formal accreditation letter asking it to form a government that abides by interim peace deals with Israel.

"Haniyeh's one-page response letter included vague wording on their position on the agreements signed with Israel," a senior Palestinian official told the agency.

Another official said Haniyeh's reply repeated Hamas's position that it would relate to such accords "in a way that would not harm" the rights of the Palestinians.

"The letter also hinted at the government's intention to reconsider those agreements that were signed with Israel," the official said.

"So President Abbas told Haniyeh their position was vague and insufficient. He agreed to continue meeting Hamas until they change the political platform of the government they're trying to form.

"(Abbas) said they have two more weeks to do that."

Hamas, whose charter calls for the Jewish state's destruction, swept to victory over Abbas's Fatah faction in the January 25 election on pledges to clean up corruption in the Palestinian Authority and seek statehood through armed struggle.

Haniyeh said in remarks published on Saturday that Hamas's platform for a new government would not be a carbon copy of its election manifesto.

"It will be based on it, but we are looking for the biggest points of agreement with our brothers in the (other) factions," Haniyeh told the Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Palestinian officials said both Abbas and Hamas were trying to avoid tensions that could result in political paralysis or even violence, but that a clash was inevitable.

"President Abbas did not place any conditions on Hamas, he only asked for clarifications on the political programme that is under discussion with other groups who wish to join the government," Hamas official As'ad Farhat told the agency.

But Palestinian officials said Abbas had asked Haniyeh for a clear yes or no on accepting prior interim peace deals with Israel, telling him that Hamas could not throw out accords because they contradicted the Islamic group's agenda.

Israel refuses to negotiate with Hamas, saying it could not consider dealing with the group until it renounces violence and recognises its existence and previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements.

Hamas, which has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in the Jewish state since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 but has largely adhered to a ceasefire forged a year ago, has said talks with Israel would be a waste of time.

First Published: Mar 11, 2006 18:21 IST