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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 November, 2004, 14:38 GMT
Palestinian election date named
Palestinians pray at the grave of former leader Yasser Arafat, 13 November 2004
A successor must be elected within 60 days of the president's death
Elections to choose a successor to Yasser Arafat as president of the Palestinian Authority are to be held on 9 January.

The move was announced by interim President Rawhi Fattuh.

A caretaker collective leadership has been in place in since Mr Arafat's death on Thursday.

Palestine Liberation Organisation head and former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has been chosen by the dominant Fatah faction to run as its candidate.

Mr Abbas has been considered a strong contender to take over the Palestinian presidency from Mr Arafat.

Palestinian appeal

Other potential successors include the Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who has effectively become the head of the Palestinian Authority, and Farouk Kaddoumi, who was appointed as head of Fatah after Mr Arafat's death.

The Palestinians have called on the US and the European Union to stop what they term any Israeli obstruction to holding a free, fair and complete vote.

The election has reportedly led to disagreements in the Israeli cabinet.

Left to right: Ahmed Qurei, Mahmoud Abbas and Farouk Kaddoumi
Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei - has taken charge of the Palestinian Authority
Mahmoud Abbas - the former prime minister now heads the PLO, the umbrella body bringing together most Palestinian factions
Farouk Kaddoumi - now heads the Fatah faction

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom has said Palestinians living in east Jerusalem should not vote because it could compromise talks on the status of the city.

But Israeli officials said Prime Minister Ariel Sharon did not share Mr Shalom's view, and pointed out that east Jerusalem Palestinians had voted in the 1996 elections.

Mr Qurei insisted the 228,000 Arabs in Jerusalem had the same right to vote as any other Palestinians.

Speaking at the Ramallah compound where Mr Arafat was buried on Friday, Mr Fattuh said candidates would be invited to put themselves forward for a period of 12 days from 20 November.

The election campaign will begin on 27 December and close the day before the poll is held.

Under Palestinian law, elections must be held within 60 days of a president's incapacitation or death.

Mr Fattuh, who as speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Assembly automatically became the interim president after Mr Arafat's death, said the registration of voters missed during an initial sign-up period earlier this year would continue.

France's Health Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said in a French radio interview that there was no reason to suspect poisoning in the death of Mr Arafat.

The 75-year-old died in a French military hospital after suffering multiple-organ failure, but the exact cause of his illness and death is still not clear.


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