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Palestinians to vote in January

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Palestinians to vote in January

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Palestinians are to hold a general election in January, in a sign that President Mahmoud Abbas is trying to meet international demands for democratic reform.

The announcement comes two months after he postponed a July poll, a move that infuriated Hamas. The Islamic faction accused him of stalling for time while he overhauled his own Fatah movement. Outside the parliament building where Abbas was speaking, masked members of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades held a rally, calling for an end to what they called attempts to arrest their members. Hamas leader Saeed Seyam said his group strongly opposes January elections. It was agreed in Cairo earlier this year that they would be held by the end of 2005. Fatah runs the Palestinian Authority but has been beset by corruption andmismanagement. Fatah’s failings have translated into a series of victories for Hamas in recent local elections. Meanhwile, Abbas has also called on Palestinians to ensure calm for the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. He said an orderly transfer of power would boost the Palestinian quest for statehood.