11/26/2004, 00.00
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A profound sense of uncertainty, says Father Pizzaballa

Internal Fatah elections seek a united leadership.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – In Palestine, "there is a profound sense of uncertainty and it is impossible to know what will happen", Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Custodian of the Holy Land, told AsiaNews. Looking at the current situation, Father Pizzaballa, said that whilst "there has not been any rise in violence, things might still get worse".

In the meantime, Palestinian Cabinet minister Kadoura Fares said that "newly-elected PLO [Palestine Liberation Organisation] chairman Abu Mazen has promised to set a date for [Fatah party] elections this weekend." He added that the chairman wants to find a solution to the conflict between the party's older wing—which supports him— and the younger wing—which supports Marwan Barghouti—over who should be the next president of the Palestinian National Authority.

Abu Mazen, a former Palestinian Prime Minister, wants to convince Mr Barghouti, a leader of Fatah's Tanzim militia who is purging five life sentences in an Israeli prison, to stay out of the race. Fares said he was en route to Barghouti's prison cell on Friday to deliver Abbas's message, but Tanzim's jailed leader seems bent on running anyway.

Fatah is split in two factions and is going through a profound internal crisis. The old guard backs Abu Mazen and claims that his candidacy will be the only one accepted. For Fatah's Young Turks Mazen's candidacy was forced on the party and reiterated their support for Barghouti.

Despite the chairman's calls for unity and calm, divisions could lead to clashes and violence. Abu Mazen wants to stop violent attacks against Israel by young Palestinian militiamen in order to restart the peace process with the Jewish state.

"We will act firmly against anyone who violates the law and we will provide security to our citizens," Mazen said adding that he will lead the country "towards a new era".

According to father Pizzaballa, the transfer of power within the Palestinian leadership was already going on, something that Arafat's sudden death speeded up. "Now we must see," the Custodian of the Holy Land said, "what the new leaders will do and how the population will vote in next January's presidential elections." For him, "several scenarios are possible. The new leadership might favour dialogue with Israel but it is too soon to tell." (DS)

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See also
Abbas's win, an invitation and challenge to Israel
Israel's power in Palestine's elections
Civil war looms over Palestine after Arafat's death
Israelis, Palestinians jointly invite pilgrims to come back to the Holy Land
The Pope was always close to the sufferings of the peoples of the Holy Land, says Patriarch Sabbah


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