Two Palestinian presidential hopefuls still await Israel travel permits
Agence France Presse 29 December 2004
RAMALLAH, West Bank Dec 29– Two Palestinian presidential election candidates are still awaiting Israeli permission to leave the Gaza Strip and campaign in the West Bank, the central election commission said Wednesday.
While four other West Bank-based candidates have received permits to travel throughout the territories, the commission said that Sayyed Barakah, a former civil servant, and Abdelkarim Shubeir, a lawyer,were still awaiting authorisation despite Israeli pledges to ensure free movement of candidates.
The seventh contender for the January 9 election, Abdelhalim al-Ashqar, is currently under house arrest in the United States and faces trial for llegally collecting funds for the militant Palestinian group Hamas.
“The special travel permits are supposed to guarantee the right of candidates and their companions to travel, during the campaigning period, between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as well as within and between Palestinian population centers,” the commission said in a statement.
The new PLO chairman Mahmud Abbas, the candidate for the dominant Fatah faction, is the overwhelming favourite to win the ballot to succeed the late Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority.
Campaigning officially began on December 25.