Abbas threatens to quit unless he gets more authority

 

The Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, hampered by a power struggle with President Yasser Arafat, will tell parliament tomorrow he will quit unless he wins authority to take key peace steps.

Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas

Rows with Mr Arafat have stymied Mr Abbas in his effort to carry out reform policies, key to a US-backed plan for peace with Israel.

Senior Palestinian lawmakers said they were working on a compromise deal to define powers held by Mr Arafat and Mr Abbas and ward off a resignation by the prime minister. They said Mr Arafat did not want Mr Abbas to go either for fear of an international outcry.

The United States seized on Mr Abbas as the reform-minded pragmatist needed to line up Palestinians behind a long-elusive two-state compromise to the Middle East conflict, and his demise could cripple peacemaking indefinitely, analysts say.

Constant disputes with Mr Arafat have bogged down Mr Abbas's campaign for reform, including a crackdown on militant factions, crucial to the US-engineered "road map" plan for peace.

It charts mutual confidence-building steps to a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alongside a secure Israel.

Mr Arafat, an elected president furious at US-Israeli attempts to ostracise him over allegations he incites violence, which he denies, has denied Mr Abbas powers to carry out security and financial reforms.

Mr Arafat has publicly endorsed the road map but refused to cede control to Mr Abbas of security and intelligence organs seen as indispensable to subduing militants, whose Islamist leaders reject Israel's right to exist and vow to destroy it.

Officials say the two leaders, close comrades atop the Palestinian independence drive for decades, now hate each other.