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U.S. Backs Arab Participation in Jerusalem City Elections

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The State Department indicated Thursday that the United States would like to see Arabs in Jerusalem participate in municipal elections.

“The United States strongly supports government through the democratic process,” Phyllis Oakley, a department spokesman, said. “In that spirit, we believe all the people of Jerusalem should decide how to run their municipal affairs for themselves.” Oakley stressed she was not referring to any “specific” case, a reference to a statement by Hanna Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem newspaper Al Fajr, that he might run for the Jerusalem City Council in 1988. He has since indicated that he is reconsidering the idea.

East Jerusalem Arabs have been eligible to vote for the City Council since the city was reunited by Israel. But in the last election, in 1983, 12,000 of the 68,000 eligible voted.

Oakley would not comment on whether the U.S. still considers East Jerusalem part of the occupied West Bank. The official U.S. position has been that while Jerusalem must remain united, its final status must be negotiated as part of an overall Arab-Israel peace agreement.

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