Abbas Asks EU to Resume Aid to Palestinian Authority

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he will approach Israeli leaders with an offer to revive peace talks after they form a new government and called on the European Union to resume aid to the Palestinian Authority.

"I think after the establishment of the Israeli government, we will make an initiative to the Israelis to return back to the negotiating table," Abbas told reporters in Helsinki. "We hope that they will be positive."

Israel's centrist Kadima Party, which did not win enough parliament seats in the March election to rule alone, moved a step closer toward forming a government Thursday. The party, led by Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said it would sign a coalition deal with the center-left Labor Party later Thursday.

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Olmert has declared the new Hamas-led Palestinian government an enemy entity. Although he has said he would be willing to speak with the more moderate Abbas, Olmert said he will not bypass Hamas by holding peace talks with the Palestinian president.

During a visit to Norway on Wednesday, Abbas proposed an international conference to open long-stalled peace talks with Israel, and said the election of a Hamas government, sworn to Israel's destruction, was no obstacle.

In Oslo, where Israel and the Palestinians secretly hammered out their historic 1993 peace accord, Abbas said that as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization he still has the mandate to negotiate. However, Israel has long opposed international conferences, and Hamas itself refused to comment on the idea.

In Helsinki, Abbas also appealed to the EU to "continue their aid, ... continue their funds to our people."

"Without funds, I don't think that we can survive," Abbas said after meeting Finnish President Tarja Halonen.

The EU froze aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government because of the militant group's refusal to renounce violence and recognize Israel. But, the EU said, it will continue to fund health care, education and other humanitarian projects through international organizations and non-governmental groups.

Abbas, who arrived in Helsinki late Wednesday, held talks with Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja and met lawmakers before flying to France for talks on how the international community could resume aid to the Palestinians.

A news conference scheduled after his meetings in the Finnish capital was canceled, Foreign Ministry officials said, but added that the Palestinians gave no reason for the cancellation.