Abbas defends delay of Gaza war crime report vote

Sun Oct 11, 2009 4:46pm EDT

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Sunday defended his decision to back the deferral of a vote on a U.N. war crimes report, saying he wanted to secure broad support for the document.

Palestinians criticized Abbas for agreeing on October 2 to defer a vote at the U.N. Human Rights Council on a resolution that would have condemned Israel’s failure to cooperate with an investigation into alleged war crimes during the Gaza conflict and forwarded the report to the Security Council.

The investigation found that both the Israeli armed forces and Hamas militants committed war crimes in the December-January war in Gaza.

He defended his decision in a televised speech to the nation.

“The decision to postpone (the vote) was a result of a consensus among the different parties at the Human Rights Council … and in order to secure the largest number of supporters for any resolution in the future,” Abbas said.

Abbas said he had formed a committee to investigate the Palestinian Authority’s handling of the issue.

“If the committee finds any mistake in the decision to defer (the vote), we have enough courage to take responsibility and say ‘we erred’,” Abbas said in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Abbas’s decision prompted the Islamist Hamas group ruling the Gaza Strip to ask Egypt to delay a meeting with his Fatah party when they where expected to sign a reconciliation pact.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told Arab politicians in the Syrian capital Damascus: “No one believes this leadership. It must be he held accountable. Israel was in a corner and this Palestinian team came to its rescue.”

A Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip said: “Abbas’ speech was an attempt to evade responsibility for the crime that (the Palestinian) Authority committed in Geneva.”

(Reporting by Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza, Khaled Oweis in Damascus; Writing by Joseph Nasr, Editing by Alison Williams)

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