Abbas to move forward with elections

Says he received assurances from the US that east Jerusalem will participate.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas announced on Monday that he has received assurances from the US that the Palestinians would be permitted to vote in Jerusalem for the parliamentary election late this month. "Today, for the first time, we received from the Americans assurances that the elections will be held in Jerusalem," he said during a press conference in Gaza City. Abbas said he spoke to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Sunday and was given a message from US President George W. Bush on Monday giving him assurances that Israel would allow the vote in Jerusalem to go ahead. He stressed, nevertheless, that the PA still hadn't heard similar assurances from Israel. "We are receiving contradictory messages from the Israelis," Abbas said. "Once they tell us that we would be allowed to hold the vote in Jerusalem, and another time they say we can't. Now that we have received American guarantees, the elections in Jerusalem will be held on the basis of the 1996 model [where voters cast their ballots at Israeli post office branches]." Abbas threatened to call off the election if Israel did not allow the vote to take place in Jerusalem. He said he had informed all Palestinian factions of his decision to cancel the election if Jerusalem was excluded. Abbas also urged the factions to work toward ending lawlessness and anarchy in PA-controlled areas, saying that he had instructed the PA security forces to deal harshly with anyone who tries to disrupt the electoral process. "I have instructed the security forces to use force to prevent any attempt to sabotage the democratic process," he said. Meanwhile, high-ranking Fatah official Kadura Faras said in an interview with Channel 2 on Monday evening that Abbas would likely retire if Hamas won the parliamentary elections. In such a situation, according to Faras, Hamas would stand at the head of the Palestinian Authority. Faras rejected proposals to remove organizations that called for the destruction of Israel from election lists in Jerusalem, saying that even organizations that refused to disarm should be allowed to run. He added that no Palestinian factions would be armed during their campaign, and expressed his belief that any organization willing to talk - an allusion to recent comments from Hamas leaders - may change its policies in the future. The Palestinian Authority would always remain a reliable partner for peace, Faras emphasized.