Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat has called on Palestinian residents of Tulkarm and Kalkilya to foster friendly relations with their Israeli neighbors.
Arafat traveled Sunday to the two WEst Bank towns, completing a round to visit to the six Arab population centers in the area that Israeli troops withdrew from during the past six weeks.
As in previous speeches, Arafat declared the two towns “liberated” and urged national unity.
He also spoke of Jerusalem as the capital for an eventual Palestinian state.
Arafat used the addresses to launch the Palestinian electoral campaign, appealing to members of the crowd “not to vote for Yasser Arafat. Vote for the best.”
Arafat urged the crowd to participate in the Palestinian elections, which are scheduled to take place Jan. 20.
More than 700 candidates are running for the 88 seats on the Palestinian Council.
After discussions with Palestinian officials, Israel agreed to increase the 83- member council previously agreed upon the include an additional five seats.
The president of the Palestinian Authority, who will be elected in a separate ballot, with hold the 89th seat on the council.
Arafat’s only challenger for the post of president in Samiha Khalil, a 72-year- old social activist.
Among the contenders for the council seats are four Hamas activists who announced on Sunday their plans to run as independents.
The move signaled the indirect participation of the fundamentalist group, which has officially said it would boycott the elections.
The four activits refused to say if they had official endorsement for the candidacies from the Hamas leadership.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian newspaper editor has been freed after being detained by the Palestinian security service for six days.
Maher al-Alami, editor of the eastern Jerusalem Al-Quds newspaper, was released Saturday after a meeting with Arafat, who reprimanded him for his handling of an article about the PLO leader.
Alami was arrested after he printed on an inside page of the newspaper an article about Arafat being granted custody of Jerusalem’s Christian holy places by the Greek Orthodox patriarch.
PLO officials had requested that the story run on the front page.