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Palestinian Election Panel Resigns

May 23, 2002

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) _ The five members of the Palestinians’ Central Elections Committee have resigned because Yasser Arafat has failed to set a date for new elections, despite repeated promises, an official close to the panel said Thursday.

The head of the five-member committee, Mahmoud Abbas, met late Wednesday with the Palestinian leader to discuss prospects for elections. Abbas is Arafat’s deputy in the PLO.

Mohammed Ishtayeh, a member of the committee, confirmed that the resignations have been submitted to Arafat. He cited technical reasons for the step, saying a new panel would have to be formed anyhow because two members now held posts that conflicted with their work in the committee.

However, another Palestinian official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the committee was growing increasingly impatient with Arafat, who has been unwilling to commit to a date for elections.

There was no comment from Arafat’s advisers.

Arafat is under growing pressure from abroad and at home to carry out wide-ranging reforms of his corruption-ridden Palestinian Authority. At the top of the list is a demand for new presidential, parliamentary and municipal elections.

There have been conflicting reports about Arafat’s willingness to go to elections. Last week, a senior Arafat aide said the Palestinian leader has endorsed new elections within six months. However, Arafat later said such a vote could not take place under Israeli occupation. His aides then clarified that Arafat insisted on an Israeli troop withdrawal to positions held before the outbreak of the current round of fighting in September 2000.

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