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Palestinian Exit Polls Show Fatah Leading, Hamas A Close Second

Palestinians casting their votes today in parliamentary elections (epa) 25 January 2006 -- Palestinians turned out in large numbers today for their first parliamentary election in a decade in an historic vote that looks likely to integrate the Islamic Hamas Party into mainstream politics.

An exit poll conducted by Najah University in the West Bank suggested that the ruling Fatah Party is the likely winner, with Hamas coming in a close second.

The poll indicates Fatah won more than 42 percent of the vote and Hamas at least 34 percent. It was based on a survey of 6,500 voters with a margin of error of five percentage points.

Official results are not expected for several hours.

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who heads Fatah, said he is ready to resume peace talks with Israel, even if Hamas joins the government.

In the past, Hamas has claimed responsibility for several suicide bombings against Israel. It has refused to accept the existence of the Jewish state.

(compiled from agency reports)