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Palestinian Elections Announced


The Palestinian Authority has announced that presidential elections will be held next January. The Palestinian Authority has announced that presidential elections will be held next January. The announcement follows President Bush's call for a new and different Palestinian leadership.

The announcement said elections for the office of president and for the legislative council will be held between January 10 and 20 with an exact date to be announced later.

Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erakat made the announcement on behalf of Yasser Arafat who remains surrounded by Israeli tanks at his headquarters in Ramallah.

Mr. Erakat said the announcement was not the Palestinian answer to President Bush's policy speech on Monday calling for reform of the Palestinian Authority.

He said the elections were Mr. Arafat's answer to the Palestinian people and part of an ongoing process and an important step in nation-building that will lead to a Palestinian state.

Mr. Erakat also said Israel could either make or break the elections. He said it would not be possible to hold them while Israel is continuing its clampdown on Palestinian territory. He said, "elections cannot be held with tanks in every street."

He called on the leaders of major industrialized countries now meeting in Canada to help ensure the elections can be held.

The announcement said that following the elections for the presidency and the legislative council in January there will be municipal elections in March.

The announcement also outlined a 100-day program of reform of the Palestinian Authority. The program will include the promulgation of what was termed a 'basic law' that will lead to a separation of power of the branches of the Palestinian Authority government. Mr. Erakat said this basic law would serve as the constitution of the Palestinian Authority.

The announcement was issued in Jericho, the only one of eight major Palestinian cities in the West Bank still under Palestinian control.

Israel has imposed a curfew on the seven others: Jenin, Nablus, Qalqilya, Tulkarem, Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Hebron. Under the curfew Palestinians living in those cities, more than 600,000 people, are confined to their homes.

Israeli forces moved into Hebron Tuesday surrounding the Palestinian government compound and killing four Palestinian policemen in a fire fight.

The Israeli army says soldiers have seized explosives belts, homemade rockets and arrested a "large number" of suspected Palestinian militants during the assault.

Palestinian leaders call the latest Israeli military move a 'premeditated assault' on the Palestinian people and their leadership.

Israeli Defense Minister Benyamin Ben-Eliezer says soldiers will remain in Hebron as long as it takes to complete their mission.

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