Text size

In a televised interview Sunday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas defended his decision to allow Hamas to run in the election. Abbas has said he hopes Hamas would tame its positions once it formally joins the political system.

But other Fatah officials sent mixed signals over whether they would work with the Islamic group. Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Sha'ath, a top Fatah official, said Hamas must accept the principle of peace with Israel if it wants to share power.

In addition, Fatah won't offer to include Hamas militants if they don't renounce violence, Sha'ath said Sunday.

"With Hamas, it will be very difficult to reach a joint program," Sha'ath added. "We can't form a coalition with Hamas if it doesn't agree to this program."

Recent polls indicate that Fatah and Hamas are running neck-and-neck ahead of Wednesday's parliament vote. But Sha'ath said he is confident Fatah will win enough of the legislature's 132 seats to form a government on its own - and then offer to share power with parties that accept the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan and recognize Israel.

Disarmament of armed groups such as Hamas is meant to begin under a U.S.-backed "road map" for peace, but Abbas has shied away from confronting groups such as Hamas, fearing it could spell civil war.

"The world expects Abbas to deliver on disarming militias, ending chaos, and find ways to convince Israel to break the political stalemate, otherwise Washington will wash its hands and abandon him," said one senior Fatah official.

"After the election, I think we will establish a government in coalition with the leftist and the independent lists," he said. With these people, we can agree on a joint program that includes negotiations with Israel, the implementation of the road map and a cease-fire (with Israel)," Sha'ath said.

Palestinian Authority security forces will begin a mass deployment Monday night to ensure order during upcoming legislative elections, officials said.

Thousands of police will take up positions around polling stations and election offices ahead of Wednesday's vote.

The West Bank and Gaza Strip have been plagued by a wave of chaos and lawlessness in recent months, and some armed groups have threatened to disrupt the voting.

Tawfiq Abu Khoussa, spokesman for the Palestinian Interior Ministry, said all security personnel would be ordered to report to their units, and forces would be ready to take up positions at 7 P.M. Monday.

Barghouti: PA poll big step to statehoodThe upcoming Palestinian parliament election is a major step toward Palestinian statehood, uprising leader Marwan Barghouti said Sunday in his first TV interview from prison.

Wearing a brown prison uniform with Hebrew lettering on the front shirt pocket, Barghouti told the Arab satellite TV station Al Jazeera that he hopes the vote will produce "a national reform government that enjoys a wide popular and parliamentary base."

Barghouti is the top candidate for Abbas' Fatah party, which is fighting off a strong electoral challenge from the Islamic militant Hamas.

In the excerpt run by Al Jazeera, Barghouti did not mention Fatah by name. He said Palestinians would be honoring their "martyrs" by casting their votes, then named the late Yasser Arafat as well as Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004.