Interviewed by Aljazeera on Saturday, Mahmoud Abbas said he expected the Israeli government to accept the holding of elections in Jerusalem in accordance with the terms agreed on by the Palestinian and Israeli authorities during the 1996 vote.

On the issue of Hamas's participation in the polls, Abbas said the democratic option could not be partitioned, and whoever emerged victorious in the election would become a member of the legislative council, but on the basis of the existing authority which in turn was based on the Oslo accords and the peace option.

Israel has already made it clear that it will not allow campaigning in East Jerusalem by Hamas, which has carried out the majority of attacks against Israel in the past five years and refuses to recognise Israel.

"Hamas is now participating in the elections according to a certain basis, and not any other basis from the past," Abbas said in the interview.

"If Hamas wants to participate in the government, it has to abide by this basis ... upon which we (the Palestinian leadership) returned (from exile) to Palestine in 1994, based on the Oslo accords," he said.

Oslo as basis

"We returned on the basis of the Oslo accords which rule the legislative council and all the agreements that took place afterwards between us and the Israelis, and subsequently the
roadmap," Abbas said.

"So, whoever wants to participate in this government has to do so on this basis," he said.

Hamas is believed to pose a real
threat to Fatah's grip on power

The internationally drafted road map plan, which hardly progressed since its launch in 2003, calls for an end to Israeli-Palestinian violence, a freeze in Israeli settlement activity, and the creation of a Palestinian state.

Abbas said "if Hamas participates and wins a number of seats and wants to participate in the Palestinian Authority ... why would we stop them, and I do not think that the Americans have the right to stop them from doing so".

Abbas said he had received assurances from Washington that the Israeli cabinet would approve the polls in East Jerusalem during its meeting on Sunday.

A US envoy has already indicated after talks on Friday with Abbas and Ehud Olmert, the acting Israeli prime minister, that he expects that authorisation to be forthcoming.

Determined

"We want to assert our right over (East) Jerusalem through the elections because it is part of the (future) Palestinian state," said Abbas.

"We are determined to hold those elections on 25 January, unless we do not obtain our complete rights, in line with the Oslo accords and the elections of 1996," he warned.

Israel has yet to decide on voting
by Palestinians in East Jerusalem

Israel allowed voting in East Jerusalem in the only previous elections to the Palestinian parliament in 1996, and again in elections for the Palestinian Authority presidency last year.

But in 2005, barely 6000 of the 110,000 registered voters in East Jerusalem and its suburbs took part, prompting accusations that Israeli obstacles had prevented people turning out at the polls.

Abbas complained that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, its continued military attacks and countless roadblocks were a hindrance to the free movement of voters during the electoral process.