Arafat considers nominating Palestinian billionaire as prime minister

Published March 4th, 2003 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is planning to nominate Munib Al-Masri of Nablus, one of the wealthiest Palestinians in the world, as prime minister when the Palestinian Authority (PA) bodies meet this weekend, Palestinian sources said Monday, March 3.  

 

However, Fatah movement officials are likely to would insist that the PA chairman nominate instead a member of the Fatah Central Committee for premier. Secretary General of the PLO Executive Committee Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, is the favored candidate among Fatah figures, Israel Radio reported Tuesday.  

 

The Texas-educated billionaire Masri, 68, is head of the Masri family, one of the most influential clans in the West Bank, which has its fortune invested in the Saudi kingdom, the United States and the Palestinian Territories. The family acquired part of their fortune by winning construction tenders for US military bases in Saudi Arabia during the 1990 gulf war. 

 

The Masris are well connected in the United States and have close links to the monarchies in both Saudi Arabia and Jordan. As Arafat’s confidante, Munib Al-Masri has been offered in the past top ministry positions, but turned them down.  

 

He is chairman of Palestinian Development and Investment Company (Padico), viewed as the powerhouse of the economy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. A private holding company launched in 1976, Padico invested tens of millions of dollars throughout the Palestinian territories, in the boom that followed the signing of the Oslo peace accords in September 1993. 

 

Its commercial interests include the Palestinian stock exchange, supermarket chains, a television assembly plant, auto dealerships, luxury hotels and water rights in the planned Dead Sea-Red Sea pipeline.  

 

The jewel in their crown is Paltel, the privately owned local cellular phone network, which is run by Munib second cousin, Sabih Masri. Almost every other Padico subsidiary, 10 associate companies in all, has a Masri or two on its board. The Palestinian Authority's trade and industry chief is another cousin, Maher Masri. — (menareport.com) 

© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)


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