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Last Updated: Tuesday, 16 November, 2004, 11:07 GMT
Hamas seeks unified leadership
PLO chief Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas now heads the PLO
Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have again called for a unified leadership to be set up following Yasser Arafat's death.

Their call came at a meeting in Gaza with Mahmoud Abbas, who has replaced Arafat as leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

The groups want to be part of a joint leadership until presidential elections scheduled for early January 2005.

For now, both groups are refusing to participate in the election.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zukhri
We are opposed to any monopoly on power
Sami Abu Zukhri
Hamas spokesman
They argue that the vote will only be used to install a leader associated with Mr Arafat's Fatah movement, which has always held the levers of Palestinian power.

The BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza says it is hard to see the Fatah leadership giving up any real decision-making power to the Islamic groups.

He says the levers of Palestinian political power have always been firmly in the hands of the faction that Yasser Arafat founded and led - the Fatah party.

Powerful Islamic movement

But the powerful Islamist movement, Hamas, and its sister party, Islamic Jihad, say that they should now be drawn into the power structure.

After the meeting with Mr Abbas, a spokesman for Hamas said that there would be further talks on the issue.

"We are insisting on the need for legislative and municipal elections in addition to the presidential poll," said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zukhri.

"We are opposed to any monopoly on power."

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