AMMAN, Jordan – The Palestinians’ Fatah party, which controls the West Bank, says the movement will hold its two-decade overdue conference to choose new leadership on Aug. 4, said a top official Sunday.
Abbas Zaki, Fatah representative in Lebanon, said at the conclusion of a three-day meeting held by President Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian capital, that the group had agreed on the date, which is also the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s birthday.
The group has not, however, agreed on a location, which they say must await the reconciliation talks with the rival Hamas movement. A meeting to decide on the venue has been set for July 10, said participants.
Fatah Central committee member Nabil Shaath said the main point is the location, but all depends on the outcome of the reconciliation meetings between Fatah and Hamas.
“Then there could be a possibility to hold the conference in Gaza or Fatah members in Gaza could leave to the location chosen for the conference,” he said.
Farouk Kaddoumi, the head of the PLO’s political department, who lives in exile and objects to the 1993 peace deal with Israel, said he will not attend if the conference is held in the Palestinian territories.
“We will wait for the National Palestinian dialogue between Fatah and Hamas to decide where to hold the conference, but not, not in the (Palestinian) territories,” he said.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia confirmed that the conference will be held on Aug. 4, with the aim of choosing a new leadership for the movement.
More than 1,500 delegates would attend, including 40 per cent from the West Bank, 30 per cent from Gaza and 30 per cent from the Palestinian diaspora. Delegates were chosen in district primaries in the West Bank and Gaza in recent years. Qureia indicated that the conference will likely be held in the West Bank town of Bethlehem.
It was not clear whether Abbas would be challenged for Fatah leadership.
The key race will be over membership in Fatah’s 18-seat Central Committee. Among those expected to compete is Marwan Barghouti, the Palestinian uprising leader serving five life terms in an Israeli jail.
The last conference was held in 1989 in Algeria.
Associated Press Writer Karin Laub contributed to the report