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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 December, 2004, 12:13 GMT
Hamas urges PA election boycott
Hamas gunman in Jabaliya refugee camp, Gaza
Hamas will not put forward a candidate in the January elections
The Palestinian militant group Hamas has urged its supporters to boycott next month's election of a new leader of the Palestinian Authority.

Ismail Haniya, a senior Hamas leader, said the Islamic group would not field a candidate in the 9 January vote.

The boycott is not a call for ordinary Palestinians to avoid voting, he said.

Hamas has rejected the elections because of its opposition to the creation of the Palestinian Authority in the Oslo peace accords.

Speaking at a news conference in Gaza City, Mr Haniya said: "Hamas appeals to its cadres, its members and its supporters to boycott the Palestinian election."

He said Hamas had pushed for a general election, voting for presidential, municipal and legislative candidates, and was sitting out the vote because the ballot had been split up.

He went on: "All Hamas members will abide by the decision to boycott the elections.

"The Palestinian people understand the need and are well aware of the Hamas position, but there is no call for ordinary Palestinians not to vote."

Mr Haniya's speech was the first formal announcement that Hamas would not field a candidate.

It came ahead of Wednesday's midnight deadline to register contenders for the vote to succeed Yasser Arafat.

Among those already nominated are Mahmoud Abbas, who represents the ruling Fatah party, and Palestinian democracy and human rights activist Mustafa Barghouti.

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