Abbas doesn’t want to run for January re-election


The Palestinian president says he doesn’t want to run for re-election in the January balloting.

Mahmoud Abbas says the stalemate in peace negotiations with Israel prompted his decision not to run again.

He charged the U.S. with backtracking on its Mideast policy and refusing to press Israel to freeze construction in its West Bank settlements.

Abbas held a televised speech late Thursday, saying he has told his “brothers” in the Palestinian leadership of his “desire not to run in the upcoming elections.”

Officials from Abbas’ Fatah Party say they have no leading candidate to replace him.

Despite the announcement, activists say Abbas could be persuaded to change his mind.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — The Palestinian president plans to announce on Thursday that he won’t run in January elections because he is frustrated over the lack of progress in peacemaking with Israel, his aides said.

Mahmoud Abbas has threatened in the past not to run, and it was not immediately clear whether this is a final decision. The two aides said Abbas would announce his decision in a speech later Thursday. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the Palestinian leader has not officially declared his intentions.

On Wednesday night, Abbas informed allies in his Fatah Party that he would not run, and on Thursday, he delivered the same message to the decision-making body of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

His plan set off a flurry of calls from regional leaders, with the presidents of Egypt and Israel, the king of Jordan and Israel’s defense minister all urging Abbas to change his mind, aides said.

Palestinians say they are demoralized because the administration of President Barack Obama has not been able to pressure Israel to stop building Jewish settlements on lands the Palestinians claim for a future state. The Palestinians fear that if Obama can’t wrest that concession, he won’t be able to prod Israel to make the more sweeping compromises likely required for a final peace deal.

Some 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. The Palestinians say these settlements gobble up large chunks of their hoped-for state, undermining their dream of independence.

Abbas has threatened before not to run for re-election in the Jan. 24. Late last month, he told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he would not run, but recanted after Obama called him and expressed his commitment to Mideast peacemaking, the aides said.

In the following days, Clinton sought to clarify the American position, first offering warm praise for Israel’s offer to somewhat limit settlement construction in the West Bank, then telling Arab leaders that the U.S. wants to see this construction stopped “forever.”

Abbas’ decision aside, it is not clear that elections will be held at all. Abbas’ West Bank government does not control Gaza, which the Islamic militant group Hamas seized in June 2007. Hamas has said it would not participate in elections.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said Abbas’ reluctance to run for re-election was “a message of reproach to his friends, the Americans and the Israelis.”

“We advise him to … face the Palestinian people and tell them frankly that the path of negotiations has failed. Halt negotiations with the occupation and take practical steps toward reconciliation.”

Hamas and Abbas have led rival governments in Gaza and the West Bank for the past two years, after Hamas’ bloody seizure of the coastal area in 2007. Multiple efforts to reconcile the two groups have failed.

Associated Press

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