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Jailed militant ponders PA leadership bid

March 18, 2008 at 4:23 PM
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JERUSALEM, March 18 (UPI) -- Jailed Palestinian militant leader Marwan Barghouti said through his attorney he is weighing a possible bid for the Palestinian Authority presidency.

Barghouti, the alleged current or one-time leader of the armed factions of Fatah -- al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Tanzim -- was jailed in 2002 on charges he killed Israeli citizens and soldiers.

Barghouti said he will announce his decision once a date is set for the next round of Palestinian elections, currently scheduled for 2009 or 2010, Haaretz said Tuesday.

His statements follow the release of a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research that suggests the Israeli incursion into Gaza bolstered the popularity of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh.

The poll suggested Haniyeh would run neck-and neck with current PA President Mahmoud Abbas, but Barghouti beats out Haniyeh by nearly 20 percentage points if the former ran for president. The poll surveyed 1,270 Palestinians and has a 3-point margin of error.

In related news, high ranking officials from Hamas and Fatah are scheduled to travel to Yemen this week to enter semi-formal reconciliation talks, the newspaper said.

Palestinian officials said the reconciliation plan calls for Hamas to relinquish control over Gaza to Fatah, a plan Hamas rejects.

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