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Abbas Replaces Arafat

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It was a vote that many hope will revitalize the Mideast peace process. On Sunday exit polls showed the majority of Palestinians voted for a man who has vowed to renew peace talks with israel, curb militant attacks and root out government corruption.


For the first time in nine years Palestinians headed to the polls to elect a new president and successor to Yasser Arafat. Mahmoud Abbas (pictured), a candidate from Arafat’s Fatah movement, is the apparent new Palestinian Authority president and he won by a large margin – the official results will be released Monday.


Approximately 1.8 million Palestinians were eligible to vote in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem. International observers, including former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, noted there was some confusion at the Jerusalem polling stations, but over all things ran smoothly in most areas.


"I came because I want change. Any change," said Fathi Kamal, a 53-year-old taxi driver, who cast his vote in Ramallah.


Abbas marked a ballot at the Palestinian headquarters building in Ramallah. israel said it wants to meet with him after the election; apparently the country is prepared to free Palestinian prisoners if Abbas can stop rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip.


"There is a difficult mission ahead to build our state, to achieve security for our people ... to give our prisoners freedom, our fugitives a life in dignity, to reach our goal of an independent state," Abbas said in an acceptance speech.


One hour after polling stations closed, three exit polls showed Abbas had about 66 per cent of the vote and was likely to beat his rival, Mustafa Barghouti. Experts believe he’ll need two thirds of the vote if he wants to push through his agenda of resuming peace talks and reforming the corrupt Palestinian Authority.


Abbas has said that his objectives are similar to Arafat’s: ending the israeli occupation, a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with Jerusalem as its capital and government reform. But he must achieve all of this while trying to curb resistance from within the Palestinian Authority and cracking down on militants.




January 9, 2005

from pulse24.com

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