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Palestinian parliamentary elections set in January
Updated: 2005-08-20 16:55

Palestinian parliamentary elections will be held January 25, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas announced Saturday.

The elections were initially to have been held in July, but were postponed indefinitely because of Israel's Gaza pullout. In setting a firm date, Abbas was making a conciliatory gesture to his political rival, Hamas, which is expected to make a strong showing in the vote.

"The parliamentary election will take place in all of the homeland districts on Wednesday, January 25, 2006," Abbas told a "model parliament" of high school students in Gaza City on Saturday.

Abbas and Hamas have been engaged in fierce competition over who will be credited with the Gaza pullout, a unilateral Israeli move. Hamas said its attacks have driven Israel out, while Abbas hopes to gain political capital from eventual improvement in the daily life of Gazans as a result of the withdrawal.

Abbas said Saturday that the Israeli withdrawal was the result of the "sacrifices of our people, the martyears and the prisoners, the wounded people."

He also repeated a pledged that the abandoned land that the settlements occupied would be used for public projects.

The chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, had said last week that elections would be held January 21, based on a decision by the PLO Executive Committee. At the time, Erekat said the announcement was to be made a few days later in a presidential decree.

However, officials went back to the calendar and changed the date, in part because of a major Muslim holiday and the pilgrimage to Mecca during that period, Erekat said.

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