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US says it has no position on east Jerusalem vote
Agence France Presse
10 January 2006

http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20060110/pl_afp/
mideastpalestinians

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States said it was up to
Israeli and Palestinian leaders to forge an agreement on
whether east Jerusalem residents would be allowed to vote
in Palestinian elections later this month.

US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that `at
its root, this is an issue for the Israeli government and
the Palestinian Authority to work out between themselves.`

Israel had initially said it would ban Palestinians from
voting in east Jerusalem because of the participation of
the Islamist movement Hamas, which has been behind
numerous lethal anti-Israeli attacks in recent years. But
it has since left open the possibility of allowing voting
to go ahead on January 25.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas said on Monday he had
received assurances from Washington that east Jerusalem
would be included in the vote and withdrew a threat to
cancel the parliamentary elections, the first since 1996.

Asked about the US stance, the State Department spokesman
said Washington had not lobbied one way or another on the
issue.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had a `good
discussion` by telephone with acting Israeli prime
minister, Ehud Olmert, on Tuesday but had not weighed in
to demand voting proceed in east Jerusalem, McCormack
said.

`She underlined the fact that she understood this was an
issue that was currently being discussed within the
Israeli cabinet and between the Israelis and
Palestinians,` McCormack said.

`And she underlined the fact that it was an issue between
the Palestinians and the Israelis to resolve.`

He added: `She`s not trying to put her finger on the
scale, if that`s the question.`

Resolving the issue required balancing Israel`s concerns
about security with Palestinians` desire to have
widespread participation in the January polls, McCormack
said.

Palestinians in the Arab quarter of the holy city,
occupied and annexed by Israel since 1967, were permitted
to vote in the 1996 polls.

Olmert, who is serving as acting prime minister after
Ariel Sharon was incapicitated by a stroke last week, said
in a statement that the matter would be put before the
Israeli cabinet on Sunday.

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