Arafat summons election committee, rejects resignation of ministers; Hamas ready to participate in elections

Published May 19th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat summoned the Palestinian election committee for a meeting on Sunday after raising doubts about a vote he promised and rejecting his cabinet's offer to resign to help push reforms.  


"All the ministers offered to quit but Arafat rejected their resignations," cabinet minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters. He said the offer was made last week at a cabinet meeting "in the framework of reforms and changes that Arafat spoke about in the Legislative Council (on Wednesday)."  


Erakat told Al-Jazeera late Saturday that "it is not only the 20 ministers but all the members of government who have put their resignations at the disposal of president Arafat."  


He said they asked Arafat to make his decision when he judges it "the opportune time" and hailed it as a normal step after Arafat's speech Wednesday announcing plans for new elections and the reform.  


Meanwhile, Mohammed Shtaeh, secretary-general of the Palestinian election committee, said it would meet Arafat at his request. "We do not have an agenda. We will see what the president wants," Shtaeh said.  


A Western-educated Palestinian political science professor who was jailed several times by the Palestinian Authority after accusing it of corruption announced he would challenge Arafat for the presidency if elections were called.  


Abdel al-Sattar Qassem, 53, teaches at A-Najah University, a stronghold of the Hamas movement in the West Bank city of Nablus, and has been critical of the interim peace deals Arafat reached with Israel.  


For its part, Hamas left open the door Saturday to its participation in planned Palestinian elections. The resistance movement, which boycotted the last elections in 1996, has indicated that it would consider fielding candidates in upcoming elections as long as the balloting has nothing to do with the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians. 


"We do not recognize any elections that came as a result of the Oslo agreement and if the coming elections will be the same as the past we will consider it an obstacle for the participation of Hamas and other parties," Ismail Abu Shanab, a senior Hamas leader, told AP Saturday. ( 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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