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Palestinian Lawmakers Prepare for Election

A key Palestinian committee of legislators is preparing for new elections. There is growing pressure on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to reform his administration.

The Palestinian elections committee is to consider the technical arrangements for holding a poll.

The Palestinian Legislative Council has called for new elections as part of a series of sweeping reforms. Aides to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat say he backs new elections, the first to be held in Palestinian-controlled areas since 1996. The poll would elect members of a new parliament, and voters would also decide Mr. Arafat's position as chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

No date has been announced for an election.

Mr. Arafat has also not responded to an offer by 20 of his cabinet ministers to resign in order to let him restructure the administration of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel has made reform of the Palestinian Authority and its security forces a pre-condition for the resumption of peace talks.

But Mr. Arafat says Israel must first pull its troops out of all Palestinian areas before any program of reform can proceed. He wants the Israeli forces to withdraw to the positions held before September 2000, the start of the Palestinian Intifada, or uprising.

In 19 months of clashes, more than 1,700 people have lost their lives.