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Palestinian president delays statehood referendum decision

[JURIST] Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [BBC profile] on Tuesday extended a deadline he set for the governing Hamas party [ICT profile] to accept a "national reconciliation" document [full text; summary] which would establish a Palestinian state and implicitly recognize Israel. Abbas has said that if Hamas, which controls the Palestinian Legislative Council [official website], does not accept the document he will put it before voters in a national referendum, though Hamas is insisting that Abbas does not have the authority to do so under the Palestinian Basic Law [PDF text]. According to a senior PA official, Abbas has formed a committee comprised of legal experts [Jerusalem Post report] that is examining the legal aspects of holding a referendum in an effort "to avoid legal complications."

Meanwhile, the PLO's Executive Committee has accepted the reconciliation document and has given Abbas the go ahead to hold a referendum. Hamas has so far refused to accept the document, insisting that further changes must be made and has denounced the planned referendum as an effort by Abbas and his Fatah party to circumvent the legally elected government. Polls indicate that there is popular support for the document and that it would be approved in a referendum, and Fatah officials say that a successful referendum would bolster Abbas' legitimacy and give him more authority in negotiations with Israel. AP has more.

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