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Abbas Will Not Seek Reelection, Officials Say


Mahmud Abbas (right) meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell in Ramallah in July

Mahmud Abbas (right) meeting with U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell in Ramallah in July

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) -- Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas will not seek reelection in a January ballot because of the lack of progress in peace talks with Israel, Palestinian officials said.

Abbas would give a speech later in the day to explain his decision not to run, one official said.

The Western-backed Palestinian leader announced his plans at a meeting of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization in the occupied-West Bank.

"The president insists on not running in the upcoming election," an official who attended the meeting told Reuters.

But senior Abbas aide Yasser Abed Rabo said the committee's members were still trying to persuade the president to run.

Abbas had called for the January election last month after failing to reach a unity deal with rival Islamist group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Abbas has rejected U.S. calls to resume peace negotations with Israel, saying he was sticking by his demand that Israel first halt all settlement expansion under a 2003 U.S.-backed peace "road map."

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who met Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on October 31, said Palestinians should enter peace talks first and resolve the settlement issue later.

Netanyahu has agreed to limit contsruction in settlements in the West Bank, territory Israel captured in a 1967 war, rather than a total freeze. He says Israel must accommodate the "natural growth" in Jewish neighborhoods.

Another Palestinian official said Abbas made his decision because of the, "stagnation in the peace process and the continuation of [Israeli] settlement activities."
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