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Egyptian intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman may travel to Ramallah on Wednesday to discuss preparations for next month's parliamentary elections, senior Palestinian Authority officials told The Jerusalem Post Monday.
Suleiman, according to the officials, will also discuss the possibility of extending for another year the unofficial cease-fire with Israel which was reached last February between the different Palestinian factions.
Suleiman's visit comes amid growing pressure on Abbas to postpone the parliamentary elections for fear that Hamas might score a landslide victory. Hamas has made a strong showing in recent municipal elections, winning three major cities in the West Bank.
Many top Fatah officials have been exerting heavy pressure on Abbas to delay the vote indefinitely, warning that divisions in the ruling party could lead to a humiliating defeat.
Abbas is said to be worried by US and European threats to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians if Hamas wins the elections. However, he fears that postponing the elections would only escalate tensions between Fatah and Hamas and draw criticism from the international community, which is pressing the PA to move ahead with reforms and free and democratic elections.
Tensions in Fatah reached their peak last week with the announcement by jailed Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti that he and some of his allies would contest the elections within a new party called al-Mustaqbal. The move has seriously embarrassed Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership, particularly since they too named Barghouti as head of the official Fatah list.
But Abbas has now agreed to remove Barghouti from his list, a source close to the PA chairman said. He pointed out that Fatah will now run in the elections with two lists - one headed by Barghouti and another headed by Abu Ali Yatta, who spent 25 years in Israeli prisons. The decision came after attempts to merge the two lists over the past few days failed.
In yet another blow to Abbas, one of his candidates and top aides, Tayeb Abdel Rahim, announced on Monday that he was dropping out of the race because of the ongoing power struggle in Fatah. In a letter to Abbas, Abdel Rahim called for postponing the parliamentary elections, saying it was inconceivable to hold the vote "under occupation."