JERUSALEM, Mar 24 (AFP): Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas threw a wildcard into the Israeli election campaign Friday with a claim that a negotiated peace agreement could be achieved with Israel in less than a year.
But Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, whose governing Kadima party is projected to emerge triumphant from Tuesday's pivotal election, insisted he could not base his policies on overtures from the moderate Palestinian Authority (PA) president when a Hamas-led cabinet was set to take power.
"I am convinced that within less than a year, we will be able to sign an agreement," Abbas was quoted as saying in an interview with the liberal Haaretz newspaper.
He said that as head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation he would conduct the talks with the Israelis, bypassing the Hamas government set to be rubber-stamped by parliament on Monday after its upset January election win.
Abbas said he had already discussed with Washington and former Israeli premier Shimon Peres, number two on the centrist Kadima party's slate, the idea of opening secret talks that would effectively bypass Hamas.
He and Peres met in Jordan earlier this month, when the Palestinian leader emphasised his desire for a resumption of stalled peace negotiations.