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Barghouti joins Palestinian race
December 1, 2004
Jailed Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti has been entered for next January's presidential elections.

His wife filed official papers on Wednesday, only hours before the deadline for registration expired.

The decision throws the election wide open. It had looked as if interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would win easily.

Last week Mr Barghouti issued a statement denying he would run, and backing Mr Abbas.

"I officially presented Marwan's candidacy for the presidential elections," Mrs Fadwa Barghouti said outside the offices of the central elections commission in Ramallah in the West Bank.

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Earlier in the day she had visited her husband in jail.

Mr Barghouti's brother Muqbal said he had hurried "to pay the registration fee before the banks closed for the day".

Nominations had to be in by midnight local time (2200 GMT).

Polls have shown that Mr Barghouti, 45, has wide popular support among Palestinians to become their leader after the death of Yasser Arafat.

Marwan Barghouti

Profile: Marwan Barghouti
But while Israel has said it would deal with Mr Abbas, ministers say they will not work with Mr Barghouti, who is serving five life terms for murder over the killing of four Israelis and a Greek monk.

Mr Barghouti refused to recognise the court trying him, and has denied being involved in violence.

The BBC's Simon Wilson in Jerusalem says until this point a smooth transition appeared to be taking place to hand power to Mr Abbas, one of Arafat's trusted lieutenants.

But Mr Barghouti's nomination marks a genuine threat from a younger generation of Palestinian leaders, he says.

The new challenger cut his political teeth on the streets during the first Palestinian uprising, or intifada, in the late 1980s, while Arafat, Mr Abbas and other leaders were in exile in Tunisia.

Mr Barghouti became increasingly popular in the current intifada, by backing the use of arms to oppose Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


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