Senior aide to Mahmoud Abbas accuses Hamas of coup attempt

A senior Palestinian official accused Hamas lawmakers on Monday of attempting to oust Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas by nullifying a parliamentary decision that gave the Palestinian president wider powers.

„We see this as a coup attempt to change the regime and they [Hamas] have to seriously reconsider their decisions,” said Tayeb Abdel-Rahim, a senior aide to Abbas. Meanwhile, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshal said Monday that the group’s recent visit to Moscow marked the end of its international isolation. Hamas legislators voted Monday to revoke all decisions made by the previous Palestinian parliament at its final session last month, including legislation that gave Abbas wider powers to appoint some judges. The move was seen as a challenge to Abbas, whose once-dominant Fatah fsuffered a resounding defeat at the hands of Hamas in parliamentary elections on January 25. „The law is very clear. It gives us the right to endorse or reject the resolutions or the decisions of that session,” senior Hamas lawmaker Mahmoud Ramahi told Reuters before the annulment vote was taken. The session was held simultaneously in the West Bank town of Ramallah and in Gaza City, with legislators hooked up by video conference. In the final session of the previous parliament on February 13, majority Fatah members pushed through an amendment to an existing law, giving Abbas power to appoint judges to a consitutional court without seeking legislative approval. The judges could be asked to decide whether laws approved by the new parliament are constitutional. Hamas has said the move would effectively give Abbas veto power over new laws. Fatah members had earlier walked out of the first working session of the new parliament on Monday in protest after Hamas began steps to revoke the previous decisions. During the voting, a dozen Fatah gunmen walked near the parliament building in Gaza City, firing in the air. However, the protesters eventually headed to a nearby meeting of Fatah leaders, demanding that their party not join a Hamas government. One masked gunman said any Fatah politician joining a Hamas government would be killed. Meshal, whose three-day visit to the Russian capital ended Sunday, was quoted as telling the daily Vremya Novostei that „Moscow became the place where we opened the door to the entire global community.” „It broke the blockade which Israel and the United States have been trying to impose on us,” Meshal said. He also said that „Russia’s position is completely unlike that of the West” and praised Russian officials for understanding Hamas’ stance. „We have never found understanding with the Americans,” Meshal told Vremya Novostei. „They aren’t ready to listen to opinions which contradict theirs. And at the Russian Foreign Ministry we felt that we were being understood.” Russian President Vladimir Putin called Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert over the weekend to update him on the outcome of the visit.