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Abbas replaces 15 security chiefs

Special to World
Thursday, May 22, 2003

RAMALLAH Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has begun replacing security commanders loyal to Yasser Arafat.

Palestinian sources said Abbas has replaced 15 commanders in the PA civilian police. They said the dismissed commanders had served in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and were all loyal to Arafat, chairman of the PA.

The most senior appointment by Abbas, who also serves as interior minister, was that of Mahmoud Asfour as head of the PA civil police. Asfour replaced Salim Bardini, an Arafat appointee.

As interior minister, Abbas is responsible for two of the PA's 13 security agencies. They are the police and the Preventive Security Apparatus.

Abbas is also responsible for PA Civil Defense and has appointed a new head of the agency. The new chief will command fire and emergency services.

Palestinian sources said the move by Abbas has angered Arafat. They said the PA chairman has insisted that he will appoint the governors of regions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"It's a big blow to Arafat's ego," a PA source said. "What's worse is that there are 15 senior police commanders and their families who are complaining to Arafat that they no longer have jobs."

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