RAMALLAH Ñ Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has
been under increasing Western pressure to back down from his demand to
directly head Palestinian security services.
Palestinian sources said Abbas has been under U.S. and European Union
pressure to accept a compromise that would ensure the formation of his
Cabinet. The sources said U.S. and EU officials and diplomats have stressed
that a new Cabinet is vital for the implementation of a roadmap for the
establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Abu Mazen [Abbas's nomme de guerre] is receiving all sort of messages
that the important thing is to get the roadmap moving," a senior source
said. "The rest can be dealt with once the new government is functioning."
Abbas and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat have been feuding over the prime
minister's appointment of Mohammed Dahlan as the new interior minister.
Arafat regards Dahlan as a critic of the PA chairman and wants incumbent
Interior Minister Hani Al Hassan to continue in the post.
On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell telephoned several
European and Arab allies of Arafat to find a compromise solution. Powell
also spoke to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom on alternative
candidates for both Abbas and Dahlan.
"It's essential the Palestinians complete this process of establishing a
government urgently," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on
Abbas has threatened to resign unless he can appoint his Cabinet without
interference from Arafat or the ruling Fatah movement. Abbas, who seeks
control over Palestinian security agencies, has until Wednesday to submit
his Cabinet for vote by the Palestinian Legislative Council. Officials said
they doubt whether the prime minister will resolve his feud with Arafat by
Palestinian sources said the EU and United States have determined that
it is more important for Abbas to appoint Arafat loyalists to his Cabinet
rather than resign. The sources said Washington does not have another
candidate for prime minister that can inspire trust.
Several Arafat loyalists have been viewed as candidates for the post of
prime minister should Abbas resign. They include PA International
Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath and PLC speaker Ahmed Qurei.
"Consultations continue and intensive efforts are still being exerted,"
Qurei said on Monday.