Ramallah: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed on Sunday the Islamic Hamas movement for delaying an inter-Palestinian reconciliation pact that was due to be signed in Cairo this month and would have ended internecine tensions.
In a televised speech, he accused Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, of using a UN report on last winter`s Israeli offensive in the salient as an excuse to avoid signing the deal.
The report, prepared by a team headed by South African Judge Richard Goldstone, accuses both Israel and Hamas of committing war crimes during the 22-day offensive at the turn of the year.
Hamas rejected the report`s conclusions against it, and when the Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Abbas agreed to defer a UNHRC vote on the report until March, led a campaign of incitement against the Palestinian president, calling him "a great traitor against the blood of the victims of the Zionist war on the Gaza Strip".
"We do not take certificates of faith from Hamas, which rejected and downplayed the UN report, then used the delay of debating it to escape from signing a reconciliation pact in Cairo this month," Abbas said on Sunday night.
Hamas officially applied to Egypt, which has been sponsoring the inter-Palestinian dialogue since March, to postpone the signing of the reconciliation pact that was due in Cairo on October 25.
Relations between Abbas` Fatah party and Hamas, already tense after Hamas won the 2006 Parliamentary Elections, deteriorated into outright violence in June 2007, when in a week of bloody fighting Hamas gunmen in the Gaza Strip routed security personnel loyal to the PA and seized control of the salient.
Abbas responded by dismissing Hamas premier Ismail Haniyeh and pulling Fatah out of a short-lived national unity government with the Islamist movement.
He said on Sunday night that his Fatah party and the PA supported Egypt`s efforts to reconcile the Palestinian factions, despite Hamas` unilateral acts in the Gaza Strip.
He added that the only solution to the political crisis would come through elections.
"We still believe that settling this problem can only be done by returning to the people and the polls," he said.
The latest Egyptian proposal suggested holding the elections by the middle of next year, but Fatah has urged Abbas not to delay the elections, which Palestinian law stipulates must be held no later than January 25, 2010.
Hamas strongman in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters after the speech that "Abbas` justifications for delaying the vote on the Goldstone report are rejected."
In his speech on Sunday, Abbas also accused Hamas of helping Israel weaken and undermine the PA, adding that "Hamas is helping Israel to establish the temporary Palestinian state which annuls our legitimate rights."
He also defended himself against the charges arising from the request to delay the UN discussion on the report, saying that "Arab and Islamic groups of countries members in the (UNHRC), where Palestine is not a member, had requested to delay the debate on the report."
"There were attempts to change phrases in Goldstone`s report, but the Palestinian representative in the UN council rejected any changes in, or erasure of, any of the report`s chapters," said Abbas.
In his speech, Abbas also slammed Israel and accused it of stalling the Middle East peace process, saying suspended peace talks will not be resumed unless Israel commits itself to a series of basic requirements.
These include a total halt to Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, "ending the Israeli occupation and establishing the Palestinian statehood," he said.
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, suspended one year ago as Israel entered an election period, have not yet been resumed as the sides argue over a demand that Israel halt all settlement activity in the West Bank.