Abbas says he won’t run in election

/ Source: news services

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday that he had no wish to seek re-election in January and that he was not ready to debate the issue.

"I have told our brethren in the PLO ... that I have no desire to run in the forthcoming election," the 74-year-old Palestinian leader said during a speech broadcast live from Ramallah. Abbas replaced the late Yasser Arafat five years ago.

Abbas has told political allies he is frustrated over lack of progress with Israel on peacemaking, aides said Thursday.

Officials from Abbas' Fatah Party say they have no leading candidate to replace him.

Abbas has threatened in the past not to run. The presidents of Egypt and Israel, the king of Jordan and Israel's defense minister all called the Palestinian leader on Thursday, urging him to change his mind, aides said.

Dispute over settlements
Palestinians are demoralized because the Obama administration has not been able to pressure Israel to halt its construction on lands they claim for a future state. They fear that if President Barack Obama isn't able to wrest that concession, he won't be able to prod Israel to make other, more sweeping compromises that would be needed to nail down a final peace deal.

The Palestinians say the settlements are undermining their dream of independence by gobbling up large chunks of territory they claim as part of a future state. Some 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in 1967.

Late last month, Abbas told Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that he would not run for re-election, but backed off after Obama called him and expressed his commitment to Mideast peacemaking, Abbas aides have said.

But days later, in a visit to Israel, Clinton had warm praise for Israel's willingness to somewhat limit construction in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, deepening Palestinian anxiety.

Wednesday night, Abbas informed allies in his Fatah Party that he would not run, and on Thursday, he delivered the same message to the decision-making body of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Abbas' decision aside, it is not clear that elections will be held at all. Islamic Hamas militants who seized control of the Gaza Strip in June 2007 have said they would not participate.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.