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Powell: Barghouti candidacy may be 'problematic'

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    Last Update: 02/12/2004 08:56 Powell: Barghouti candidacy may be problematic http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/508549.html By Arnon Regular, Haaretz
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2004
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      Last Update: 02/12/2004 08:56

      Powell: Barghouti candidacy may be 'problematic'
      By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Agencies

      The sudden re-emergence of Marwan Barghouti as a rival candidate to Mahmoud
      Abbas as chairman of the Palestinian Authority has spurred widespread
      criticism within Fatah, as U.S. Secretary of State said the challenge noted
      that the candidacy of the jailed militant Fatah leader could be

      Barghouti's wife on Wednesday evening filed the necessary papers for him to
      run in the elections, reversing a prior decision by Barghouti and throwing
      Palestinian politics into disarray.

      Barghouti, currently serving five life sentences in an Israeli jail, was
      visited on Wednesday by his wife, Fadwa, along with Palestinian ministers
      Kadoura Fares and Jamil Tarifi, and during the visit, it was decided that
      the candidate's registration fee of $3,000 would be paid. Barghouti's
      brother, Muqbal Barghouti, confirmed on Wednesday that he had paid the
      registration fee for his brother.

      Abbas, who is much less popular in the Palestinian street, was the clear
      front-runner in the election after Barghouti first announced at the weekend
      that he would not run.

      "He is in Israeli custody for crimes he was found guilty of, which makes it
      somewhat problematic for his candidacy," Powell said during a brief visit
      to Haiti.

      Other State Department officials were assiduous in refraining from comment
      over the prospect of the militant's succeeding the late Yasser Arafat. "As
      far as we're concerned, he's a Palestinian in an Israeli jail, end of
      story," deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters in Washington.

      Pressed as to why the United States would not take a position on Barghuti
      when it had refused to deal with Arafat after President George W. Bush
      called him unfit to lead the Palestinian people and called for a change in
      leadership, Ereli demurred.

      "It's a line of hypothetical and a line of speculation that is not
      something we're particularly spending a lot of time losing sleep over," he

      Fatah official: 'irresponsible step'
      There was also widespread criticism of Barghouti's decision among Fatah
      movement members.

      Senior Fatah officials expressed concern that Barghouti's candidacy would
      split the organization and hurt its legitimacy in the Palestinian street.

      Tayeb Abdel Rahim, Secretary General of the Fatah Central Committee,
      branded the decision as an "irresponsible step."

      By taking the decision, Barghouti gave up his place in the Fatah movement,
      Abdel Rahim was quoted to say following a Fatah meeting in Gaza on

      Other Fatah officials reaffirmed after the meeting their full support of
      Mahmoud Abbas's candidacy.

      The leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade in Jenin, Zakariya Zubeidi, also
      pledged his support for Abbas and said that Barghouti should quit the Fatah

      Even some of Barghouti's associates expressed surprise at his move. "We
      will do all we can in the coming days to convince Marwan to remove his
      candidacy to avoid a split in Fatah," Barghouti associate Hatem Abdel Kader
      told Haaretz on Wednesday.
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