Final efforts to solve Arafat, Abu Mazen dispute
Palestinian prime minister designate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) said Tuesday that he would no longer conduct negotiations with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat regarding posts in his cabinet, a mediator who met with both Abu Mazen and Arafat said. Abu Mazen must present his new cabinet by the Wednesday midnight deadline. Arafat and Abu Mazen have not spoken since Sunday.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair called Arafat on Tuesday and - according to one Palestinian official - delivered a stern message that everything must be done to assure that Abu Mazen is installed as prime minister.
Arab, European and U.S. officials have also called Arafat in recent days to press him to reach agreement with Abu Mazen so that the latter can be sworn in as prime minister.
There was still no end in sight to the dispute between the two men on Tuesday. Arafat consulted with Cabinet ministers and senior members of the ruling Fatah party at his West Bank headquarters.
A senior Palestinian official close to Arafat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was little hope for compromise and that he expected Abu Mazen to refuse to take up the post of prime minister. However, a Palestinian source told Al Bawaba Tuesday evening that one option being discussed among Fatah memebers is to extend the deadline for next week. If this proposal accepted Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) is expected to announce it on Wednesday, the source said.
The bitter dispute over whom to name security chief is raising the possibility that Abbas will resign.
Abbas' resignation could cause considerable delays in unveiling a U.S.-backed peace plan, a "road map" to full Palestinian statehood within three years.
The main disagreement is over Mohammed Dahlan, a former Gaza security chief whom Abbas wants to name to a key security position. Arafat does not want Dahlan in the Cabinet, and prefers a confidant, Hani al-Hassan, as security chief.
Hassan Khreisheh, a Palestinian legislator, said Tuesday that Arafat is trying to sabotage Abbas' Cabinet list because he is unwilling to give up power. "He (Arafat) fears he will not be the strongman in the coming phase," said Khreisheh, according to AP.
The Tel Aviv-based Haaretz daily, citing Palestinian sources, reported Tuesday that Arafat is trying to undercut Abbas because of the prime minister's plan to disarm militias, including the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade linked to Fatah.
Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, discussed the wrangling over the Palestinian Cabinet with Secretary of State Colin Powell in a phone call, according to Jonathan the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Shalom told Powell that "as long as Arafat continues to be an obstacle, it will be very difficult to make progress on the road map," reports said. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)