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Victory for Abbas

Last updated: 2005-01-10

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas

Mahmoud Abbas has won the race to be Palestinian president getting around 70 percent of the vote. His nearest rival Mustafa Barghouti managed to garner some 20 percent.

"There is a difficult mission ahead to build our state, to achieve security for our people, to provide a good life for our people, to give our prisoners freedom, our fugitives a life in dignity, to reach our goal of an independent state," he said in his victory speech.

"I present this victory to the soul of Yasser Arafat and present it to our people and to our martyrs," he added.

Opinion surveys had consistently shown Mr Abbas with a commanding lead. If these initial results are confirmed in the official tally expected later today, they would give the former prime minister a solid mandate to move ahead with political reforms and diplomatic efforts to renew peace talks with Israel.

"The United States stands ready to help the Palestinian people realize their aspirations," said US president George Bush. "The new Palestinian president and his Cabinet face critical tasks ahead, including fighting terrorism, combatting corruption, building reformed and democratic institutions and reviving the Palestinian economy."

However, Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath cautioned not to expect too much too soon. "I don't want people to feel too optimistic. I don't think tomorrow we are going to have an independent state. It's going to take time and effort, both on our side and certainly on the international community side to get Israel to commit itself to the road map and to withdraw its forces from our country," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel expects the new Palestinian president to accept full responsibility for ensuring that Palestinians live up to their commitments for returning to the peace process. "We would like to see them implementing their commitments in the road map, in phase one. There are not going to be any shortcuts in the road map, no compromises or discounts," he said.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who is expected to keep his post in the new administration, said the election demonstrated the Palestinian commitment to democracy. "Our people want to show the world- want to show all the world - who are saying that there is in the region one democracy, which is Israel," he said. "Our message: NO! We are also democratic people and we want democracy! "

Overall, Sunday's election went smoothly and voter turnout is estimated at around 65 percent. Some problems were reported in East Jerusalem, with confusion and delays at polling sites.