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Arafat calls polls in Jan
- Bid to avert no-trust move

Ramallah, Sept. 11 (Reuters): Palestinian President Yasser Arafat today called presidential and legislative elections for January 20 under international and domestic pressure to reform his government.

The move, announced by the parliamentary speaker, turned Arafat’s administration into a transitional government and some Palestinian officials said it would avert a parliamentary vote of confidence in his Cabinet planned for later in the day.

Legislators had predicted an uphill battle for approval of the Cabinet by the Palestinian Legislative Council, where Arafat — who is widely expected to be re-elected — has faced criticism for not doing enough to overhaul the government.

“The Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank and Jerusalem are invited to free and direct general elections, to elect the head of the Palestinian National Authority and members of the Legislative Council on Monday, 20th January, 2003,” Arafat said in the decree, read in parliament by the assembly’s speaker, Ahmed Korei.

It was not clear when or if parliament would be dissolved.

Arafat has been under intense US and Israeli pressure to reform his Palestinian Authority, which is in charge of areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip under interim peace deals with Israel.

US President George W. Bush called in June for a new Palestinian leadership uncompromised by “terrorism”, making the creation of an independent Palestinian state conditional on sweeping democratic and other reforms and an end to violence.

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