Palestinian congress to meet for first time in years


The Palestinian congress will meet next month for the first time in years, official media announced, as president Mahmud Abbas plans a response to U.S. policies.

The Palestinian National Council, a congress representing those in the Palestinian territories and the diaspora, has not met in regular session since 1996 amid political infighting between Abbas's secular Fatah party and the resistance movement Hamas. An emergency session of the body was held in 2009, but it will gather on April 30, the Wafa official news agency said, after a decision by the Palestine Liberation Organization's executive committee.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, an adviser to Abbas, told journalists Tuesday that among the tasks to be covered in the meeting is a "new political program." The meeting could see the participation of members of Hamas, despite the failing reconciliation attempts with Fatah.

All members of the largely defunct Palestinian parliament are automatic members of the congress, even though Hamas is not part of the PLO. Hamas won the last legislative elections in 2006 and thus has 74 members in parliament who are in theory able to attend. But Hamas rejected the timing of the meeting, saying it represented "a blatant departure from the national consensus" and implied that its delegates would not attend.

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