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Hamas Rejects New Palestinian Elections

Hamas leader and Prime Minister Haniyah (file photo) (epa) December 17, 2006 -- Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said today his Hamas party will not participate in early elections.

Haniyeh denounced as "inflammatory" President Mahmud Abbas's speech on December 16 in which he said he will seek early presidential and parliament elections.

Haniyeh said the Palestinian government believes early elections would be unconstitutional and could cause tension among Palestinians.

Minister Targeted

Unknown gunmen reportedly fired today on a convoy carrying Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahar of the ruling Hamas movement. No casualties are reported. The attack came after gunmen killed a member of President Abbas's presidential guard and wounded several others.

In central Gaza City today, supporters of Hamas and Abbas's Fatah faction are still engaged in a heavy gun battle around the presidential compound.

In other developments, Syria today called on Palestinian to resume dialogue and the EU urged the Palestinians to refrain from violence.

(compiled from agency reports)