Palestinian groups to field candidate

Five Palestinian factions have agreed to field a joint candidate in the 9 January presidential election to replace the late Yasir Arafat, an official says.

    Abbas has been holding meetings with armed factions

    Two of the groups, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, boycotted the previous Palestinian election in 1996. Both factions rejected Arafat's interim peace deals with Israel. 

    The factions, who also include the Struggle Front, People's Party and Democratic Federation (FIDA) - all of them small groups - agreed in recent meetings in Gaza to run a joint
    candidate, but have yet to select one. 

    On Tuesday, Abd al-Sattar Qasim, a longtime critic of Arafat, and Talal Sidir, one of Arafat's loyalists, became the first to announce their candidacy in the January poll. 

    Both are little known to ordinary Palestinians and lack party affiliations, making them long-shot challengers to Mahmud Abbas, the moderate former prime minister and new Palestine Liberation Organisation leader who is expected to run.

    More discussions

    Rabah Muhana, a PFLP leader, said on Thursday the five groups would continue discussions with Abbas and urge him to set a date for a parliamentary election. 

    Abbas has been holding a series of meetings with Palestinian factions, including Islamic armed groups, in the wake of Arafat's death in a French military hospital on 11 November. 

    "We also will meet the temporary president of the Palestinian Authority, Rawhi Fattuh, and urge him to issue a presidential decree setting a date for parliamentary elections," Muhana said. 

    Lawmakers have said they expect a parliamentary ballot, last held in 1996, to be scheduled for next year.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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