RAMALLAH Ñ The Palestinian legislature has approved the creation of
the post of prime minister, but has not defined its authority.
On Monday, the Palestinian Legislative Council voted 64-3 to create the
post of prime minister in the Palestinian Authority. The PLC then began
debating the duties of the post.
PA Chairman Yasser Arafat has named PLO Executive Council secretary
Mahmoud Abbas, 67, for the premiership. Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, has not
formally agreed to accept and has insisted that he be given authority to
shape economic and security policies.
Over the last week, Arafat and Abbas discussed the issue, and
said the PA chairman provided unspecified assurances to the PLO secretary.
The sources said Arafat appointed Abbas amid pressure by Fatah leaders, the
European Union and the United States.
Palestinian legislators have introduced a bill that would give the prime
minister authority in security issues. The legislation would authorize the
prime minister to appoint the interior minister and security agency chiefs.
The bill names Arafat as head of the Palestinian armed forces.
Abbas has called for a limited Palestinian ceasefire with Israel. This
would end Palestinian attacks inside Israel, but not against Israeli targets
in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinian opposition groups warned they
would not recognize Abbas's authority.
As the PLC convened, Israel's military withdrew from some Palestinian
areas in the northern Gaza Strip. Israeli forces had been deployed around
the town of Beit Hanoun in an attempt to stop Hamas missile attacks against