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Israeli minister urges ouster of Abbas

JERUSALEM -- Israel's foreign minister urged the international community to help oust Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, whose policies he called "an obstacle to peace" in a letter released yesterday.

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman wrote to the Quartet of Mideast mediators -- the United States, the UN, the EU and Russia -- this week, calling for new elections in the Palestinian Authority in order to replace Abbas, accusing the authority of being "a despotic government riddled with corruption."

"Despite Mr. Abbas' delays, general elections in the Palestinian Authority should be held and a new, legitimate, hopefully realistic leadership should be elected" he wrote. "Only such a leadership can bring progress with Israel. We must maximize the holding of new elections in the PA alongside the tremendous changes in the Arab world, in order to bring a serious change between Israel and the Palestinians."

Abbas' spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, rejected Lieberman's statement, calling it an "incitement to violence" that "doesn't contribute in any way to an atmosphere of peace." He urged Israel and the international community to condemn the letter.

Elections for new Palestinian leadership were scheduled for 2010, but have repeatedly been delayed because of the dispute between Abbas' Fatah and the militant Hamas, bitter rivals that had a violent falling out in 2007 and now separately govern the West Bank and Gaza Strip, respectively.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also sought to dissociate himself from the letter. An official in Netanyahu's office, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the letter does not represent the government's position.

"While Abbas has created difficulties for restarting negotiations, the government of Israel remains committed to continuing efforts to restart a dialogue with the Palestinians," he said.

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