NABLUS, West Bank, (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who has said he would not seek another term, will stand in presidential elections scheduled for 2010, a senior official said on Saturday.
“President Abbas is Fatah’s candidate for the Palestinian presidency,” said chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurie, a member of Abbas’s secular Fatah group.
Fatah officials have said they would press Abbas, who has also reportedly threatened to resign unless Israel and Palestinian officials reach a peace agreement by the end of the year, to run again because they had no better alternative.
The long-dominant Fatah faction was defeated by Hamas, its Islamist rival, in 2006 parliamentary elections, ending more than 40 years of Fatah ascendancy. Hamas later routed Fatah forces to take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007, leaving Abbas’s authority to the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Younger members of Fatah have said the Hamas’s victory reflected dissatisfaction over the monopoly of power and corruption with some of the older guard. They have demanded internal elections to inject new blood into the movement.
An Israeli lawmaker said last month that Abbas told him he would resign if Israel and the Palestinians failed to reach a peace agreement by the end of the year.
A Palestinian poll conducted in May by NearEast Consulting found that the majority of the Palestinians trusted Abbas and opposed his resignation.
Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched peace negotiations in November with the aim of reaching a statehood deal by the time U.S. President George W. Bush leaves office in January 2009, but the talks have shown little progress so far.
Qurie said the Palestinians were still conducting talks with their Israeli counterparts despite “wide gaps” in positions. The two sides agreed in their last meeting to begin drafting a position paper in an attempt to narrow those gaps, he said. “We agreed with the Israelis to begin drafting the positions,” Qurie told reporters.
Israel says there has been significant progress in talks on the issue of borders, but no progress has been made regarding the future of Palestinian refugees and Jerusalem.
Israeli officials have said that drafting of positions has started on several side issues.
A senior Palestinian negotiator said the drafting of positions did not mean agreement was reached on any of the issues. Several position papers had been drafted in the past but did not lead to any agreements, he said.