Palestinians OK prime minister's slot, debate job description

Special to World
Monday, March 10, 2003

RAMALLAH 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 Palestinian sources 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 Israel.

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