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Palestinians Turn Out For Parliamentary Elections

Campaigning in the West Bank in the run-up to the 25 January voting (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) 25 January 2006 -- Palestinians are voting today in their first parliamentary elections in 10 years, with polls predicting a close contest between the ruling Fatah party and the Islamic movement Hamas, which is seeking to join the Palestinian government for the first time.

Voting is to take place at some 1,000 polling stations in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. Some 1.4 million Palestinians are eligible to vote for the 132-member Palestinian Legislative Council.

Israel has warned of consequences for the peace process if Hamas is victorious. Israel refuses to talk to Hamas and has called for the group to disarm and abandon its call for the destruction of Israel.

The United States and European Union have also warned they would have major problems dealing with Hamas as long as it continues to advocate the use of violence.

Thousands of Palestinian security forces have been deployed to guard the ballot boxes, and the vote is expected to be observed by hundreds of international monitors led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

(compiled from agency reports)