Arafat: no elections in PA until Israel withdraws from territories
By Amira Hass, Ha'aretz Correspondent, Ha'aretz Service and Agencies
Last update - 18:40 17/05/2002
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat told reporters Friday that elections would only be held in the West Bank and Gaza Strip once Israeli occupation had ended, but his advisers later clarified that the voting is being linked to a far more modest withdrawal demand. Palestinian sources said that elections would be held within six months, on condition that IDF troops first withdraw to positions they held before the outbreak of the intifada, some 20 months ago.
Asked Friday when elections would be held, Arafat told reporters in English: "As soon as they (the Israelis) finish this occupation from our land, according to the agreement that was supposed to be at the beginning of 1999." In 1999, Israel and the Palestinians were to have reached a final peace deal.
However, Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath said later that the goal remained to have presidential and parliamentary elections within six months. Sha'ath said that work on putting together rosters of 1.6 million eligible voters had already begun. "But these elections need an Israeli withdrawal to the places (troops held) before September 28, 2000," Sha'ath said, referring to the day the fighting began.