RAMALLAH Ñ Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has
begun preparations to enter exile.
Palestinian sources said Abbas has been in contact with several Arab
governments regarding the prospect of leaving the PA areas for exile. The
sources said the preferred destinations are Egypt and Qatar.
Abbas, the sources said, has been bracing for a vote of no-confidence on
Thursday by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The sources said most of
the 83 members either support a no-confidence motion or a compromise that
would dilute Abbas's authority.
For the last two weeks, Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, and PA Chairman
Yasser Arafat have engaged in an open power struggle for control of
the security agencies and that of the huge civil service sector. Arafat has used
Fatah forces to block Abbas's appointments, meant to replace loyalists of the
PA chairman, Middle East Newsline reported.
"Abu Mazen wants complete control of the security agencies and that is
the red line for Arafat, who is determined to clip Abu Mazen's wings," a
Palestinian source close to the prime minister said. "It's clear that Abu
Mazen does not intend to continue under such circumstances."
Abbas has boycotted attempts by the PLO to avoid a showdown on Thursday.
The PLO Executive Committee has drafted a settlement under which Arafat
would head a new five-member national security council. The proposal would
also allow Arafat to appoint an interior minister, the position of which has
been informally filled by Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan.
Under the settlement, the prime minister will also return to the PLO
leadership. Arafat will resume his authority over all high-level
appointments as well as negotiations with Israel.
The United States has contacted Arafat supporters in the PLC and warned
that the dismissal of Abbas could lead to a change in U.S. policy to support
the establishment of a Palestinian state over the next few months. The
sources said the Bush administration prefers to delay any no-confidence
motion in a move that would enable Abbas to continue in his post.