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Abbas eyes referendum decree on Saturday -aide

Written by: Staff

RAMALLAH, West Bank, June 7 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will issue a decree on Saturday calling for a referendum on a statehood proposal if the Hamas government still refuses to back the plan, his spokesman said tosday.

Abbas had set a deadline earlier this week for Hamas to embrace the statehood manifesto, which implicitly recognises Israel, but delayed a showdown after what officials said were appeals by Arab leaders.

''President Abbas will issue the decree on Saturday,'' spokesman Nabil Abu Rdainah told reporters, referring to when the fresh deadline will have expired.

Speaking to reporters, Abbas did not give a specific time for issuing the decree, saying it would be in two or three days.

Hamas trounced Fatah in January parliamentary elections and has been locked in a power struggle with Abbas ever since.

The Islamist group, which seeks to destroy Israel, rejects the manifesto penned by prominent prisoners in an Israeli jail and says a referendum would be illegal so soon after elections.

A referendum would be seen as a confidence vote on the Hamas government, whose election led the West and Israel to cut off funds to the Palestinian Authority.

The manifesto implicitly recognises Israel. It calls for a Palestinian state on all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Reuters SHB VV1830

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