Militant Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad say they will boycott January’s election to replace Yasser Arafat. The new head of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) – Mahmoud Abbas – met with leaders of the radical organisations on Tuesday. Both are pushing for a role in a post-Arafat administration but say the poll is illegal because they see it as a continuation of the Oslo peace process.
Mahmoud Zahar, the Gaza leader of Hamas, said that they were looking to create mechanisms in order to reach a final agreement between all the Palestinian factions and to discuss the issue of the participation of the Islamic movement inside the PLO.
Meanwhile the Israeli prime minister has offered an olive branch to Palestinians, saying he would consider coordinating his Gaza withdrawal plan with the new leaders if they curb attacks on Israelis. While Arafat was alive Ariel Sharon refused to discuss his plan with the Palestinians.