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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 19:41 GMT
Hamas names election candidates
Ismail Haniya at the Palestinian election office
Haniya leads the pragmatic wing of the Hamas movement
The Palestinian militant movement Hamas has issued a list of 62 candidates standing in its first general election.

The top position goes to Ismail Haniya, head of the movement's pragmatic wing, in what correspondents say could be an attempt to woo mainstream voters.

Prominent hardliner Mahmoud Zahar was in ninth place, in a list that also included 10 women candidates.

Mr Haniya pledged to try to create the "proper atmosphere for a successful... process," for the January poll.

The 25 January parliamentary election will be only the second since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1995, but Hamas boycotted the first parliament.

The movement is expected to present a strong challenge to the mainstream nationalist Fatah faction, which swept the board last time.

"We are optimistic that our people will go to vote in this historical event," said Mr Haniya after the Hamas delegation he was leading presented its list at Gaza's central election commission office.

President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to appoint candidates for Fatah after its primaries were marred by violence and electoral fraud.

The first woman on Hamas' list is Jamila Shanti, widow of Abdel Aziz Rantisi, the Hamas leader killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004.

Another candidate is Mona Mansour, who is the widow of Jamal Mansour, a Hamas leader killed by Israel in the West Bank city of Nablus in 2001.

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