Talks fail, Abbas to call referendum on plan recognizing Israel

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Monday he will call a referendum after failure of last-ditch efforts to persuade the militant Islamic Hamas to accept a document implicitly recognizing Israel.

Abbas had set a midnight deadline for agreement, but a participant in the late-night talks said Abbas determined they had failed an hour before that.

A statement from Abbas' office said, "President Abbas will set a date for the referendum after the meeting Tuesday of the PLO Executive Committee and parliamentary caucuses." Hamas, at the head of the Palestinian government, strongly opposes a referendum.

Also Monday, Israeli aircraft fired missiles at a car in the Jebaliya refugee camp next to Gaza city, the military said, killing two militants and wounding two bystanders, according to Palestinian hospital officials.

Israel said the main target, a militant from the renegade Popular Resistance committees, was involved in firing rockets at Israel. He died of his wounds.

Hamas has been calling for more time to discuss the proposal and suggested changes in the language. But Abbas, a moderate who has avoided confrontation since taking office early last year, rejected Hamas' demands on Monday.

"If anyone wants to amend this document, then we will not reach any results," Abbas told reporters after meeting with European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

Abbas has endorsed the plan as a way to end crushing sanctions against the Palestinians and allow him to resume peace talks with Israel.

The United States, European Union and Israel have cut off cash transfers to the Palestinian government since Hamas won legislative elections earlier this year. The Western countries want Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel, reports AP.

O.Ch.