JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published on Sunday he will remain in office until 2010, a decision likely to stoke tensions with Islamist Hamas rivals who oppose his peace talks with Israel.
Abbas’s Fatah faction says Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections should be held together in 2010.
Hamas, which defeated Fatah in parliamentary elections in 2006, says Abbas’s term ends on January 9, 2009.
“I think that the elections for parliament and the presidency should take place together, in January 2010. We will decide, and issue a presidential order accordingly,” Abbas told Israel’s Haaretz newspaper.
Holding elections in 2010 could give Abbas more time to pursue peace talks with Israel.
Abbas said it was too early to say whether he would seek another term as president.
Any unilateral decree from Abbas will likely prompt a Hamas response. Hamas leaders said they will not recognize Abbas as president after January.
“If (Abbas) stays in power without holding presidential elections he would lose legitimacy and he would lose the power and the right to issue any decisions,” said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri.
“Hamas would then deal with him as an usurper of authority and a violator of the law,” he said.
Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 after routing Fatah forces. Abbas responded by dismissing a Hamas-led government and appointed a new administration in the occupied West Bank, where Fatah holds sway.
Abbas, who was elected in January 2005, argues that Palestinian election law, approved before Hamas’s rise to power, says that both contests be held in 2010. The Palestinian Basic Law says the president’s term is four years.
“We have an election law and a decision by parliament that says that presidential and parliamentary elections will be held simultaneously in 2010,” senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio.
He accused Hamas of violating Palestinian law by refusing to cede control of the Gaza Strip.
A senior leader from the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad recently warned that if the factions do not reach agreement soon on a target election date, further violence would erupt.