Barghouti pledged key role in Palestinian government

Special to World
Monday, November 29, 2004

RAMALLAH An imprisoned Fatah leader has been pledged a key role in the Palestinian leadership.

Palestinian Authority officials said Marwan Barghouti, Fatah secretary-general in the West Bank, has been granted a role in the Palestinian leadership. They said PLO chairman Mahmoud Abbas has decided that Barghouti would be involved in every strategic decision by the PA and PLO.

"He will be one of the important pillars in the Palestinian regime, Fatah and the PLO and must be partner to every important decision on the strategic level," PA Minister of State Qaddura Fares said.

Fares traveled to an Israeli prison in the southern city of Beersheba on Nov. 26 to relay Abbas's decision to Barghouti. Barghouti, 46, had been considering running for the post of PA chairman in the first significant challenge to Abbas. Elections have been scheduled for Jan. 9.

Barghouti, in jail for the last three years, has been serving five life sentences upon being convicted of ordering a series of attacks on Israeli civilian targets. In one case, the victim turned out to be Palestinian close to the powerful Greek Orthodox Church.

On Nov. 26, the 129-member Fatah Revolutionary Council ratified Abbas as the movement's candidate for the Jan. 9 elections. The council also announced that Fatah would hold elections on Aug. 4, 2005, the first such elections since 1987.

Fares said Abbas has relayed additional pledges in an attempt to avoid a challenge by Fatah's young guard. The minister said the pledges included the participation of younger Fatah members on the steering committee of the ruling Palestinian movement.

Abbas and other PA officials have urged Israel to release Barghouti. So far, the government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused.

But Israel allowed Fares to visit Barghouti in what appeared to be an effort by Sharon to help Abbas's candidacy. Officials said Barghouti supporters had collected 5,000 signatures for the Fatah leader to run against Abbas.

Over the weekend, Fares released an announcement from Barghouti that he would not run for PA chairman. Instead, Barghouti said he would support Abbas. Mustafa Barghouti, a cousin of the Fatah secretary-general, plans to run for PA chairman.

"After a meeting of four hours, during which we debated this issue, Marwan Barghouti sends this message to the Palestinian people and its fighters," Fares said. "He calls on the members of the movement to support the movement's candidate, Mahmoud Abbas."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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