|VOICE OF AMERICA|
SLUG: 2-321612 Palestinian Election Monitors (L-only)
TITLE=PALESTINIAN ELECTION MONITORS (L-ONLY)
HEADLINE: Election Monitors Tour Israeli Checkpoints ahead of Sundays
INTRO: International election monitors toured Israeli military checkpoints
and Palestinian voting sites today (Saturday), ahead of Sundays
presidential elections in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem.
VOAs Benjamin Sand reports from Jerusalem.
TEXT: Election observers visited roadblocks and checkpoints in
the West Bank and Gaza Strip to see how easily Palestinians were
able to pass.
A key concern is maintaining access to the polls in a region marked by a divided Palestinian territory and numerous Israeli security checkpoints.
Israel has promised to ease travel restrictions and roadblocks for
seventy-two hours and stop military operations in the Palestinian areas.
But Palestinian officials complained delays were continuing and said
Israel had not fulfilled its promises. Israeli officials said they had never
promised to lift restrictions altogether and stressed that security concerns
Among the election monitors is former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who has
urged Palestinian officials to conduct a peaceful, free and fair election.
He said this could be an important opening to a resumption of peace talks.
/// CARTER ACT ///
"And that this election will be a demonstration that there can be
trustworthy negotiations in the future between the Israelis and the
Palestinians to find some common ground."
/// END ACT ///
Israel asked Mr. Carter to warn the Palestinian Authorities to rein in
militants to avoid precipitating an Israeli security crackdown.
Mr. Carter and former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt are among the leaders of
an 80-member international delegation from the Washington-based National
The delegation is joined by official observers from the European Union, the
United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
An official U.S. monitoring group is also here, headed by Senators John
Sununu and Joseph Biden.
Close to one-point-eight million Palestinians are eligible to vote in
Sunday's election. They have seven candidates to choose from for the
position of president of the Palestinian Authority. Opinion polls indicate
former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas is the likely winner.
After the polls close Sunday night, monitors will follow the ballot boxes to
election headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah and help certify the
official results, expected on Monday.
There are about 800 international observers and 20-thousand Palestinian
monitors preparing for Sunday's election. (SIGNED)
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