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Arafat Adviser: Elections in Winter

May 24, 2002

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ Palestinian general elections will be held this winter, but only after Israeli troops have withdrawn to positions they held before the outbreak of fighting in September 2000, a senior Palestinian official said Friday.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday was quoted as saying the elections would be held regardless of an Israeli pullback, but his senior adviser, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said Friday that the linkage between elections and a partial Israeli withdrawal remained in place.

Abu Rdeneh said Arafat’s statement was due to a misunderstanding.

Arafat is under growing pressure at home and abroad to reform his corruption-ridden Palestinian Authority, and to unify the Palestinian security services into one agency. He has promised to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, but has yet to set a date.

Earlier this week, the five-member Central Elections Committee resigned in protest over what some of the members perceived as stalling by Arafat over announcing a date for elections.

Abu Rdeneh said Friday that general elections will be held ``this winter,″ on condition that Israeli troops withdraw to positions held before Sept. 28, 2000, and that the Palestinian residents of traditionally Arab east Jerusalem be allowed to participate _ as they did in the first general elections in 1996.

The adviser also said that Arafat would appoint a new, smaller Cabinet for the interim period leading up to the elections. Abu Rdeneh would not say when the appointments will be made. The Palestinian parliament has demanded that Arafat disband the current Cabinet, targeting especially ministers suspected of corruption.

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