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Hamas Wins Sweeping Victory in Palestinian Parliamentary Elections
In the Occupied Territories, unofficial results indicate Hamas has won a sweeping victory in the first Palestinian parliamentary elections in a decade. Israel and the United States have said they would not deal with a Palestinian Authority that includes Hamas. We speak with Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group about the surprise result.
In the Occupied Territories, initial results indicate Hamas has won a sweeping victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Unofficial results show Hamas took almost all of the 16 constituencies in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It had particular success in the Jerusalem district, where the group won all four seats allocated for Muslim candidates. Official results are expected later today.
* Ismaeel Abu Haniya, Hamas leader.
The surprise upset was acknowledged by the Fatah party ahead of the official vote count. The result would not automatically unseat President Mahmoud Abbas, who was elected last year, but he has said he might resign if unable to pursue a peace policy. Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei of Fatah and his cabinet resigned today.
Hamas said Thursday that it intends to begin talks on a coalition as soon as possible, while a senior official from Fatah said it would not join a Hamas-led government.
Speaking on election night, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel could not deal with a Palestinian Authority which included Hamas.
* Ra'anan Gissin, spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Meanwhile, Washington has not yet commented on the emerging results, but President Bush warned on Wednesday he could not sanction a government led by Hamas in its present form. State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack issued a similar warning.
* Sean McCormack, State Department spokesperson.
Already the U.S. has been accused of meddling in the Palestinian election. On Sunday the Washington Post reported the Bush administration secretly funneled nearly $2 million into public service projects to help improve the standing of Fatah over Hamas. That was more money than any Palestinian party spent on the election.
While the voting on Tuesday went smoothly - with a turnout of about 75 percent -- thousands of Palestinians faced difficulty voting in the West Bank because their polling location stood on the other side of Israel's 400-mile security wall.
* Mouin Rabbani, senior Middle East analyst with the International Crisis Group and a contributing editor of Middle East report. He joins us on the line from Amman where he just returned from Jerusalem.