British FM slams Hamas over Palestinian vote

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British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Tuesday that Hamas should not be allowed to "stifle" the democratic expression of Palestinians after the Islamist movement rejected a call for elections.

Speaking at a joint press conference with visiting Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in London, Hague welcomed last month's call by the Palestinian leadership for presidential and legislative elections by September.

"I welcomed the recent call for Palestinian elections and I condemn the rejection of these by Hamas," he said.

"Hamas should not be able to stifle the democratic expression of Palestinian opinion."

Hamas -- which controls Gaza while Abbas's secular Fatah faction controls the West Bank -- has said it will not participate in elections without a reconciliation deal between the two warring factions.

For his part, Abbas said: "We are ready to have legislative and presidential elections and we leave the ballot boxes to speak for themselves... and whoever wins will take the helm.

"Without this we cannot reach a political solution without Palestinian reconciliation."

During their meeting, Hague pressed for a resumption in peace talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and said Britain, France and Germany were pushing for clearer parameters for any new negotiations.

These include abiding by the borders that existed before the 1967 Six Day War, and the establishment of Jerusalem as the capital of both states, he said.

"There is an inescapable need for both parties to commit themselves to negotiations based on clear principles such as those we have set out," he said.

Britain confirmed Monday that it was upgrading the status of the Palestinian diplomatic delegation to London to the level of a mission, following in the footsteps of several other European Union countries.

Abbas welcomed the move Tuesday, saying: "We thank you for this step, we really appreciate it, and we consider it a contribution for peace and we hope that the time shall come when we have a fully fledged embassy in London."

© 2011 AFP

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