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Fatah: Gaza boycott TBA following Ramallah Central Committee meeting

Aug. 1, 2009 9:23 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 2, 2009 10:43 P.M.)
Gaza – Ma’an – Fatah leadership in Gaza has not yet taken a decision to boycott the movement’s sixth conference Central Committee Zakariyya Al-Agha said later Saturday.

A final decision will be taken once the Central Committee meeting in Ramallah is over. That meeting is expected to address the rumored addition of 900 members to voting lists, which Fatah members in Gaza called an “illegal” attempt to bolster support for current Central Committee members who will stand for re-election.

Al-Agha said a letter would be sent to president Abbas and the Central Committee explaining the position of the Fatah members in Gaza and their concerns around the addition of hundreds to the voting list.

The initial tip that the Fatah leaders in Gaza would boycott the conference came Friday night when the secretaries general of Fatah in multiple regions of the Gaza Strip met in Gaza City to discuss the registration issue.

Members called on Fatah men and women already in Ramallah to return to Gaza immediately. Ma’an sources did not name the Fatah members they felt were illegitimate, but said formal statements would be made later Saturday.

The decision, if it holds, could have catastrophic consequences on the landmark meeting, which will see Fatah leaders gather for a policy meeting for the first time in 22 years. Part of the reason for the years-long delay in hosting the meeting was controversy over where to hold the congress and which of the hundreds of thousands of Fatah members to invite.

The ultimate decision to host the conference in Bethlehem meant dozens of leaders in exile will be unable to attend, as they wait on Israel to issue permits to enter the West Bank. The weeks leading up to the conference saw leader in Tunis Farouq Qaddoumi launch conspiracy charges at West Bank Fatah strongmen Mahmoud Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan, alleging they plotted the death for former Palestinian President and Fatah founder Yasser Arafat.

Fatah organizers of the conference have said from the beginning that wide participation in the congress is essential to ensure its legitimacy, including hefty support from the Fatah contingent in Gaza. Because the conference was positioned as one of the central precursors to internal Palestinian unity - to find a consensus among Fatah members that would make national conciliation more productive - the announcement of the Gaza boycott could undermine further the legitimacy of the decisions reached during the congress.

The boycott could be a further blow on account of the recent controversy over whether Hamas controlled-Gaza would allow the Fatah members to exit the Strip in time for the conference. In recent days Hamas demanded the Palestinian Authority issue its members passports and release hundreds of its supporters from PA prisons

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