- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

JERUSALEM — Fatah candidate Mahmoud Abbas has effectively secured election as the next Palestinian Authority president, but at a price that could spell trouble in the future.

Imprisoned Palestinian activist Marwan Barghouti dropped his threat to run for the office from prison over the weekend, removing the most serious threat to the election of Mr. Abbas, a 69-year-old moderate.

But in exchange, Mr. Abbas has promised the first elections in 15 years to the mainstream party’s central committee, which is now the exclusive province of the older generation represented by Mr. Abbas, who also is known as Abu Mazen.

Those elections are virtually certain to bring onto the committee members of a younger generation represented by Barghouti, 46, and probably Barghouti himself, even if he remains in prison.

His generation, which led the uprising against Israel, has long complained about being denied access to political power by the older leaders who returned from political exile in Tunis, Tunisia, a decade ago with late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Leaders of Fatah made strenuous efforts to persuade Barghouti not to run after he announced through his lawyer Thursday his intention to challenge Mr. Abbas.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who enjoys good relations with Mr. Abbas, permitted Palestinian legislator Kadoura Fares, a close colleague of Barghouti, to visit him in prison on Friday with a message from Mr. Abbas, which included the pledge to hold internal Fatah elections.

Another Barghouti confidant, Ahmed Ghanem, said Barghouti had decided not to make a move that could split Fatah.

“He knows that Abu Mazen will implement reforms and hold Fatah elections,” he said.

Mr. Abbas and two other top Palestinian leaders conferred yesterday in Cairo with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

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