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Last Updated: Thursday, 12 January 2006, 15:41 GMT
Hamas reveals election manifesto
Hamas' candidates for the Palestinian Legislative Council wave during a rally in Gaza
Hamas did not take part in the last legislative election in 1996
The Palestinian militant group Hamas has published its manifesto ahead of legislative elections on 25 January.

Running as the "Change and Reform List", Hamas is participating for the first time and opinion polls suggest it will perform well.

Correspondents say the group's stance is less hardline than before, as it tries to broaden its appeal to voters.

The manifesto makes no mention of the destruction of Israel - an aim which is contained in Hamas' charter.

But the manifesto does refer to "resistance" as a legitimate right of the Palestinians to gain independence.

'All possible means'

"[We are] committed to defeating the occupation, and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as defending the Palestinian people by all possible means," the manifesto said.

Hamas has carried most of the suicide bombings in Israel, while dozens of its fighters and leaders have been killed by the Israeli military.

But the group largely adhered to an informal truce with Israel which expired at the end of the year.

PALESTINIAN ELECTIONS
Scheduled for 25 January; originally set for July 2005
132 members elected to Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)
Fatah and Hamas are main contenders
First time Hamas participates in parliamentary poll
Israel says Hamas cannot take part under a 1995 agreement
Last parliamentary elections held in 1996

The BBC's correspondent in Gaza, Alan Johnston, says Hamas' lower-key manifesto was to be expected, because the group is trying to appeal to Palestinian voters as a whole rather than its established constituency ahead of the elections.

Hamas is making a strong challenge to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement, and polls suggest it could win up to a third of the vote.

The Islamists are fielding at least 115 candidates for the 132-seat parliament, having not taken part in the 1996 election.

"The Change and Reform list considers its presence in the Palestinian Legislative Council one of the means to realize its slogan of change and reform, to build the strength of the people, and to restore what the occupation has destroyed," it said.

The election has been thrown into doubt since Israel threatened to ban Palestinians from voting in East Jerusalem in protest at the participation of candidates from Hamas.

Mr Abbas has said he will postpone the vote if Israel carries out its threat.

The Israeli government will decide on the matter at its weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, though Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz has said Palestinian residents will be able to vote in Israeli post offices as in 1996.


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