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The Media Line Daily News Focus

1. PALESTINIAN CHIEF NEGOTIATOR IN WASHINGTON: ISRAEL WILL SABOTAGE ELECTIONS… Palestinian Authority Chief Negotiator ‘Saib ‘Ariqat told American officials in Washington on Tuesday of fears that Israel will sabotage January’s legislative elections. He said Israel might go as far as using assassinations as a means of doing so. ‘Ariqat met with officials at the White House and then held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Speaking to reporters afterward, the Palestinian negotiator said he had asked the U.S. “to help us, to send as many observers as possible…and making sure that the Israelis don’t sabotage or obstruct” the elections. He specifically called for the United States to “protect us from any Israeli attempt to sabotage the elections with assassination.” ‘Ariqat disagreed with the Bush administration on the issue of allowing Hamas members to run in the elections. A State Department spokesman said Secretary Rice reiterated to the Palestinians through ‘Ariqat the “fundamental contradiction of having groups that want to keep one foot in the camp of terrorism and one in the camp of governance.”

2. ISRAEL TESTS A HI-TECH TERMINAL AT WEST BANK CROSSING POINT… Israel has begun testing a new, hi-tech terminal at a crossing point separating it from Palestinian territories. While the Israelis claim it’s an attempt to ease passage for those needing to cross, Palestinians and others in the international community claim it’s an attempt by Israel to create de facto final borders without bi-lateral negotiations. The crossing point is located near the Palestinian town of Qalqilya, but on land that was pre-1967 Israel. Intense international criticism has been leveled at the security barrier, which Israel says is purely a defensive mechanism to prevent suicide bombers from entering Israel from Palestinian territory. But the Palestinians are supported by many in the world community who contend the route the barrier takes represents what Israel sees as its final border. The presumption was reinforced within recent days with word that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is moving toward dealing with the issue of borders, which have been reported to be very close to the route of the buffer.

3. ‘ABBAS SUSPENDS PRIMARY ELECTIONS DISRUPTED BY VIOLENCE… Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud ‘Abbas, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Fatah party, suspended voting in the Fatah party primary elections in the West Bank one day after doing the same in the Gaza Strip. On Monday, gunmen disrupted voting at a number of polling stations, causing ‘Abbas to act. On Tuesday, he halted voting in the West Bank and declared that the results recorded to that point would stand. The electoral brouhaha casts further doubt on the ability of ‘Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to bring law and order to the P.A. and according to some analysts, strengthens the hand of Hamas, which is running candidates in January’s legislative election.

4. ISRAEL, PALESTINIANS SIGN RED CROSS AGREEMENT… With the signing of a mutual recognition pact, the Israeli and Palestinian rescue and relief organizations have paved the way for Israel to be accepted for membership by the International Committee of the Red Cross. Israel’s attempts to join have been rebuffed for sixty years, the reason usually given being the Red Cross’s inability to accept the red shield of David used by the Jewish state. Under the new agreement, a red “crystal” that looks like a diamond would be the international symbol. The Magen David Adom (red shield of David) symbol would appear on ambulances alongside the new emblem. The new system is expected to be approved when the ICRC meets in Geneva in several days.