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RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said presidential and legislative elections scheduled for January will be postponed, confirming that he has accepted advice not to hold the vote.
Abbas, speaking to BBC Arabic, said the Palestinian leadership would take measures to avoid a constitutional vacuum -- although he did not spell these out -- when the term of the current legislature and his term as president expire on January 25.
Abbas also said he would not seek a second term as president. He had previously said he had no desire to run in the elections which had been scheduled for January 24.
His announcement reflected frustration with the stalled peace process and what the Palestinians see as the failure of the United States to put pressure on Israel to halt settlement activity on land occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
Abbas reiterated his demand for a halt to Israeli settlement before any resumption of talks. "I said that the Israeli government does not want peace. The American government has not done enough for the sake of peace," he added.
The interview was broadcast on Thursday.
The Central Election Commission announced last week it had advised Abbas to put off the election because Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip where some 1.5 million Palestinians live, had warned it would not allow them to vote.
Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007. The Islamist group disputes Abbas's legitimacy.
"Now for a realistic reason, due to certain conditions -- because of the rejection of Hamas and its threat to prevent (voting) by force, naturally they will be delayed, or the time of the elections will come later," Abbas said.
"It is better for us that Hamas accepts the holding of elections. But if that doesn't happen, then the Palestinian leadership must take measures," he said.
Senior members of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) which Abbas heads, told Reuters this week they expected the body to effectively extend Abbas's term at a meeting in December. The PLO and the Fatah faction which dominates it have both called on Abbas to stay on as leader. Abbas heads both bodies.
Abbas sidestepped a question on whether he would stay in his position until elections were held. "Perhaps they will be delayed by a year, or less, I don't know. What I am saying now is that I will not be a candidate," he said.
Asked if he had taken a final decision not to seek a second term, Abbas said: "This is a final decision." He added: "I have taken a decision not to run."
Abbas called the January 24 vote after Hamas refused to sign an Egyptian proposal that would have scheduled elections for June.
Hamas says it has reservations about the Egyptian proposal, which aims to promote reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
"There must be elections but I don't say elections in the West Bank without Gaza, for example, or without Jerusalem," he said, in reference to parts of the city occupied by Israel in 1967. Abbas aims to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital.
(Writing by Tom Perry, editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Reuters