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Associates of Marwan Barghouti said today the jailed Palestinian uprising leader has decided to run for president, reversing an earlier decision and throwing Palestinian politics into disarray.

The deadline for announcing a candidacy is midnight tonight. The election will be held Jan. 9.

Barghouti, 45, decided to run after meeting with his wife and two senior Palestinian officials at an Israeli prison where he is serving multiple life sentences for his role in the deaths of four Israelis and a Greek monk, the associates said on condition of anonymity.

Word of Barghouti's candidacy came just hours after interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas launched his campaign for Palestinian Authority president to succeed Yasser Arafat who died Nov. 11. Recent polls show Barghouti is more popular than Abbas.

Barghouti, the clear favorite of younger members of Arafat's Fatah movement, had bowed to intense pressure last week not to risk splitting the movement by challenging Abbas, 69, who was favored by Fatah's old guard.

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