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Fatah Supporters Call for Abbas' Resignation

A thousand demonstrators from the defeated Fatah Party protested Friday outside the Gaza City home of beleaguered Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a day after a strong victory by the opposition Hamas Party.

Demonstrators were calling for the resignation of Abbas, who is a member of the Fatah Party. A day earlier, Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia of Fatah and his cabinet resigned to make room for a Hamas government.

Fatah leader Mohammed Dahlan addressed the protest outside Abbas' house, which turned violent at times. Abbas was not home at the time.

About 1,000 angry party activists, including 100 gunmen, drove by Abbas' Gaza residence. After evening prayers, the protesters went back to his house and fired rifles in the air before marching and driving through the city, waving Palestinian flags, yellow Fatah flags and posters of the late Yasser Arafat.

Scores of angry Fatah supporters also marched in Gaza City earlier Friday, burning abandoned cars, shooting into the air and demanding that its party leaders step down, while backing their decision to stay out of a Hamas government.

The Fatah defeat was seen as a rebuke to veteran — and corrupt — party leaders who have resisted calls for reform by its young guard.

"We don't want to join the Hamas government. We don't want corrupt leadership. We want reform and we want to fire all the corrupt," one group of thousands chanted at the earlier demonstration outside the parliament building in Gaza City.

Also on Friday, Abbas asked Hamas to form a new government after his vanquished Fatah Party rejected a role in the Cabinet and Israel ruled out peace talks in what could be the first steps to isolate the militant group after its election victory.

Acting Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni appealed to the international community not to legitimize a Palestinian government led by Hamas, saying elections are not a "whitewash" for terrorist groups.

Speaking to reporters, Livni said Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last summer opened a window of opportunity in peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. With the election of Hamas, she said, "the Palestinians slammed it shut."

The United States and some European nations said Hamas must renounce violence and drop its demand to destroy Israel.

"If your platform is the destruction of Israel, it means you're not a partner in peace, and we're interested in peace," President Bush said. Similar statements came from other parts of the world.

Former President Carter said the United States, by law, would have to cut off direct funding to the Palestinian Authority as soon as Hamas takes control, but it should look for other ways to give money to the Palestinians, such as through the United Nations. Hamas has been branded a terrorist group by the U.S. and Europe.

"United States law would require that the money would be cut off if Hamas is in the government, so that's a foregone conclusion," Carter told The Associated Press.

European parliament members spoke of the possibility that donors would cut off vital aid to pressure Hamas to moderate its hard-line positions.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is to meet in London on Monday with U.N., Russian and European leaders as the so-called "Quartet" of would-be international peacemakers evaluates the results and tries to decide how to proceed.

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he had asked Abbas, who is Fatah's chief, to meet Sunday to discuss forming a new government. Abbas' office said no appointment has been made yet, and Abbas said separately he would ask Hamas to lead the next government.

Israel was unprepared for the Hamas landslide. Foreign and Defense Ministry scenarios had put such a stunning blow to the long-ruling Fatah as a low probability, officials said.

But after the rout, acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert quickly ruled out talks.

"The state of Israel will not negotiate with a Palestinian administration if even part of it is an armed terrorist organization calling for the destruction of the state of Israel," Olmert said.

Fatah, turned out of office by Palestinians angry over its corrupt and inefficient government, offered no help to Hamas, catapulted into leadership in its first foray into parliamentary politics.

Fatah leaders decided late Thursday not to enter a joint government with Hamas.

Hamas does not need Fatah — it won 76 of the 132 seats in parliament, a clear majority. Fatah, the undisputed ruler of Palestinian politics for four decades, got only 43. But Fatah could help Hamas by serving as a conduit for talks with Israel.

Polls published Friday in Israeli newspapers showed support among Israelis for talks with a Palestinian government led by Hamas.

On Friday night, thousands of Fatah activists burned the abandoned cars outside the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza City and shot in the air, demanding the resignation of corrupt party officials and insisting that Fatah form no coalition with Hamas.

"This demonstration is a natural reaction of Fatah supporters and members. We have one demand that the [Fatah] Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council should resign immediately," said Samir Mashrawi, a local Fatah leader who lost in the election. The protesters did not specifically call for Abbas' ouster.

A large crowd of Hamas supporters clashed briefly Thursday with Fatah loyalists outside the Palestinian parliament in Ramallah, with both sides throwing stones after Fatah activists pulled a Hamas flag from the building.

On Friday, three people were injured after an argument between about 20 Hamas and Fatah loyalists degenerated into gunfire and rock-throwing. One man was treated for moderate gunshot wounds and two for minor injuries caused by rocks, according to witnesses and hospital officials.

Hamas ideology does not recognize the presence of a Jewish state in an Islamic Middle East. In recent years, however, some Hamas leaders have grudgingly accepted the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as long as it is understood to be only a stage toward freeing all of Palestine — including Israel.

Meeting with reporters, Livni said she spoke to several foreign ministers and told them of the need to send "a very clear, unequivocal message ... that elections are not a whitewash for terror."

"In these talks, I also made clear what was decided in the consultation with the acting prime minister, that Hamas cannot be a partner of Israel and the fact that it will lead the Palestinian Authority, if indeed this is what will happen, this means the Palestinian Authority also cannot be a partner, in the eyes of Israel and the whole world," she said.

Avi Dichter, a former Israeli security services chief, said he didn't expect terrorism to rise once Hamas takes over.

"The moment they become partner to the Palestinian government, reality will become a lot more complicated for them than it was when they were a terror organization alone," Dichter told Army Radio.

"I think it would be illogical — even insane — for them to toe the extremist line they have been following until now," he added. "I think we need to wait and see if common sense dictates."

Economic constraints are also likely to curb Hamas' extremism. With the Palestinian Authority dependent on foreign aid for its survival and on Israel for day-to-day needs such as electricity, water and the movement of people and goods, Hamas will have a hard time ignoring international calls to renounce violence.

Carter said the United States should increase its donations to U.N. and other aid groups earmarked for the Palestinians to make up for the cut in direct aid "so that the people can still continue to have food and shelter and health care and education."

The U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem said the United States gave the Palestinian Authority $400 million in direct aid last year.

Carter met Friday with Abbas, who told him that the Palestinian Authority did not even have enough money to pay salaries at the end of the month, even with foreign aid.

If the aid is cut off, "it would create an element of chaos unless the money is made up by other sources," he said. "If the Arab countries come through and the European countries continue to help and maybe Japan, they could continue to operate."

Hamas leaders themselves have hinted that despite their hard-line ideology, they will be pragmatic and not disrupt daily life in the territories they are about to rule.

"We will not let our position adversely affect the daily life of our people," a Hamas leader, Osama Hamdan, declared.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.