Popular Leader Won't Run in Mideast Election

Jailed Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti (search) won't run in upcoming presidential elections, throwing his support instead behind Mahmoud Abbas, the candidate of the ruling Fatah party, Palestinian officials said Friday.

Barghouti, 45, an extremely popular member of the young guard of Fatah (search), had considered challenging Abbas, 69, in the election to succeed Yasser Arafat, who died Nov. 11.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Kadoura Fares (search) traveled to an Israeli jail in the city of Beersheba on Friday to meet with Barghouti, armed with an appeal from Abbas to abandon his campaign.

Fares told a news conference that Barghouti appreciated Abbas' gestures, including a promise to hold long-overdue elections in Fatah next year, and would support his candidacy.

"After a meeting of four hours, during which we debated this issue, Marwan Barghouti sends this message to the Palestinian people and its fighters. ... He calls on the members of the movement to support the movement's candidate, Mahmoud Abbas," Fares said.