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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas emphasized on Tuesday that parliamentary elections slated for next January will be held on time. He, however, expressed fear that Israel might try to "obstruct" the vote.
"Talk about postponing the elections is mere rumor and wishful thinking," Abbas said, referring to reports that he was considering a delay in the vote indefinitely because of ongoing tensions in his ruling Fatah party. "The elections will be held on time (January 25)," he said.
Abbas said all Palestinian factions, including Hamas, were invited to participate in the elections. He added that he did not rule out the possibility that Israel would try to scuttle the voting process, pointing out that the IDF had arrested hundreds of Palestinians on the eve of the third round of municipal elections several weeks ago.
"Some parties don't want the Palestinian democratic process to succeed," he said.
Defending Hamas's decision to participate in the elections, Abbas said: "Democracy would be meaningless once we start banning any faction from taking part in the democratic process. We reject any attempt or pressure in this regard and see them as a flagrant interference in the internal affairs of the Palestinians. We won't allow anyone to harm our democratic experience. We have resisted attempts to prevent Hamas from participating in the elections and we scored success in this regard during our talks with US President George Bush."
In a related development, Abbas issued a "presidential decree" stating that PA security chiefs can run for internal election in Fatah and the legislative elections only after they quit.
PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said on Tuesday, that the present Israeli generation is not a generation of peace and is dominated by a mentality of arrogance and force that does not make peace. "The Palestinians have always been a peace-loving people, while Israeli governments have been running away from peace and trying to impose unilateral solutions. This won't lead to peace," Qurei told reporters in Ramallah.
"Israel is following a systematic and planned policy aimed at creating settlement blocs and building the separation fence. This is a policy of aggression that does not lead to peace," he said.
Qurei's anti-Israel rhetoric is seen as an attempt to distract attention from growing pressure on him to resign.
The Palestinian Legislative Council has twice threatened to hold a no-confidence vote against Qurei's cabinet, accusing it of failing to deal with the growing state of anarchy in PA-controlled areas. Last week PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas infuriated legislators by rejecting their demands to replace the cabinet.
PA National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub also lashed out at Israel, accusing it of behaving in a "crazy" manner and lacking political vision. Holding Israel responsible for the latest wave of violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Rajoub called on the international community to intervene to halt the deterioration. He also criticized Hamas and Islamic Jihad for firing rockets at Israel, explaining that the PA was the only party authorized to respond to Israeli "aggression."