Roundup: Palestine starts technical meetings over preparations for first elections in 15 years

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RAMALLAH, Jan. 10 (Xinhua) -- The Palestinian Central Elections Commission (PCEC) on Sunday started technical meetings over preparations for the first Palestinian general elections after a 15-year hiatus.

Hana Nasser, chairman of PCEC, convened an online meeting with the Comission's members in the Gaza Strip to discuss the latest developments of the planned legislative and presidential elections, according to a statement issued by PCEC.

Nasser said during a meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas held in Ramallah on Saturday evening, he proposed to Abbas several dates deemed suitable for holding the elections.

"Holding elections needs as long as 120 days after issuing suitable presidential decrees," he noted.

Meanwhile, Hisham Kuhail, executive director of PCEC, said Abbas will issue a package of presidential decrees that will set the dates for the legislative and presidential elections, as well as for a vote for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

On Saturday evening, Abbas held a meeting with a delegation of PCEC in Ramallah, and agreed to issue his presidential decrees for holding elections before Jan. 20.

Kuhail said PCEC will hold another meeting with Abbas in seven days to present its final proposal of dates for holding the Palestinian elections.

After issuing decrees, Abbas will invite the general secretaries of the Palestinian factions to discuss "mechanisms for overcoming obstacles regarding holding elections in Jerusalem and challenges Israel might creat," Kuhail added.

On Jan. 2, Ismail Haniyeh, chief of the Gaza ruler Hamas, confirmed to Abbas in an official letter that his movement was ready to end the internal divisions and hold general elections.

Hazem Qassem, spokesman of Hamas in Gaza, told Xinhua that there is consensus among all Palestinian factions about the need to unite for an honest election that "expresses the will of the Palestinian people in all places of their presence including Jerusalem."

The last legislative elections were held in the Palestinian territories in January 2006, when Hamas won an overwhelming majority in the chamber.

Abbas, 84, was elected as the chief of the Palestinian Authority in the presidential elections held in the Palestinian territories in January 2005, and succeeded the former leader Yasser Arafat who had died in November 2004. Enditem

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