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Palestinian PM offers to step down amid bitter dispute with Abbas

By Agencies in Ramallah, West Bank | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-12 07:12

Palestinian PM offers to step down amid bitter dispute with Abbas

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has offered to resign because of an increasingly bitter dispute with President Mahmoud Abbas over the extent of his authority, officials said on Thursday.

Abbas has not responded to Fayyad, who enjoys the support of the international community, particularly the United States.

It's not clear if Abbas, who was expected back in the West Bank on Thursday from a trip to Qatar, will accept Fayyad's resignation at a time when the US is trying to revive Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

As part of that effort, US Secretary of State John Kerry hopes to win Israeli approval for Palestinian economic projects in the West Bank.

Fayyad, a respected economist, is considered to be key to overseeing such projects.

Fayyad has served since 2007 as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, the self-rule government that administers 38 percent of the Israeli-controlled West Bank.

The relationship between Fayyad and Abbas has been tense for some time, and the prime minister told Abbas late last year that he wanted to quit.

Abbas told Fayyad repeatedly to wait with such a step, but the conflict between the two escalated last month over the resignation of Fayyad's finance minister, Nabil Kassis.

Fayyad accepted the resignation, but Abbas then overruled the prime minister, effectively challenging his right to hire and fire Cabinet ministers.

Underlying tension between Fayyad and Abbas surfaced when Nabil Qassis, a former president of Bir Zeit University near Ramallah who joined the government in May, announced on March 2 he was resigning, without giving a reason. Abbas was abroad at the time.

Abbas rejected the resignation, but Fayyad agreed to it. It is unclear whether Qassis has officially retained the post.

Fayayd told confidants in recent days that he is determined to leave. The prime minister, a political independent, also complained about what he said was an attempt by leading members of Abbas' Fatah movement to undermine him.

Three officials confirmed in interviews with The Associated Press that Fayyad offered his resignation to Abbas. One said Fayyad did so in person and in a letter to Abbas in mid-February, while two said Fayyad sent such a letter through mediators to Abbas last week.

The officials, two of whom spoke on Thursday, insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Abbas appointed Fayyad to his post after the Islamic militant Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in 2007. Since then, the West Bank and Gaza have been run by separate governments, one led by Fayyad in the West Bank and one run by Hamas in Gaza.

Last week, the Revolutionary Council, the main governing body of Abbas's Fatah party, openly criticized Fayyad's government for the first time over its economic policy.

"The policies of the current Palestinian government are improvised and confused in many issues of finance and the economy," it said in a statement last Friday.

The criticism came as several high-ranking officials suggested Abbas might be about to dismiss Fayyad.

Fayyad, 61, served as a World Bank expert before being nominated by Abbas to form the West Bank-based government after the Islamic Hamas movement took over Gaza in 2007.


(China Daily 04/12/2013 page11)

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