Abbas cites lack of U.S. support as reason for resignation

Tuesday, September 9, 2003

RAMALLAH Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas submitted his resignation after he concluded that he had failed to receive sufficient support from the United States to counter the growing threats by Arafat, Palestinian sources said. The sources said Abbas had expected the Bush administration to help him in the power struggle with Arafat and his armed loyalists.

Abbas submitted his letter of resignation on Saturday to PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat immediately accepted the resignation.

Abbas told a closed session of the Palestinian Legislative Council that he had submitted his resignation because of the lack of Israeli and U.S. support. The prime minister, who served 128 days in office, also cited what he termed the "harsh and dangerous" incitement against his government.

Arafat has nominated Ahmed Korei who said Monday he would accept the post if he won guarantees of support from the U.S., Europe amd Israel.

Palestinian sources said earlier that Arafat planned to name PLC speaker Ahmed Qurei for the position. Qurei has already said he does not want the job, Middle East Newsline reported.

Israeli and U.S. diplomatic sources, however, said Abbas's decision was not final. They said Abbas could be persuaded to withdraw his resignation if he obtains the authority he seeks. Abbas was expected to head a caretaker government for the next five weeks.

"I don't think Abu Mazen will again be prime minister after this bitter experience," Palestinian legislator Khaddoura Fares said on Sunday.

Later, the Israeli government released a statement that termed the Abbas resignation an "internal Palestinian matter." But the government warned that "Israel will not countenance a situation in which control of the Palestinian leadership reverts back to Yasser Arafat or someone who does his bidding."

In Washington, the Bush administration called on Israel and the Palestinians to act with caution. A White House statement called for the maintenance of the post of prime minister and pledged to continue to implement a plan for a Palestinian state.

"The creation of the office of prime minister was a key turning point for the Palestinian Authority in the development of new institutions to serve all the people, not just a corrupt few tainted by terror," the White House statement said. "The prime minister must be supported by a Cabinet committed to fighting terror, political reform, and rooting out corruption."

Meanhwhile Ahmed Yassin escaped an Israeli assassination attempt during the weekend.

Yassin escaped an assassination attempt in an apartment on the third floor of an apartment building in Gaza City. An Israeli F-16 multi-role fighter dropped a 250-kilogram bomb on an apartment of an Islamic University professor where Yassin was hiding. In the apartment were leading Hamas military commanders, Mohammed Deif and Adnan El-Rol.

Israeli officials said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz decided to use a 250-kilogram bomb rather than the standard 1,000-kilogram bomb to avoid collateral damage and the killing of those not connected with Hamas. Later, Israeli sources said the attack decided after Abbas's resignation demonstrated that Yassin was not immune to Israeli assassination.

"The operation took into account the option of failure given the choice of the weapon," Israeli parliamentarian Gideon Saar, head of the Likud bloc in the Knesset, said. "The target could have been eliminated had the weapon been different. The consideration was avoiding hurting many innocent people."

Palestinian sources said Yassin was lightly injured. Deif and El-Rol were said to have escaped injury. Hamas has pledged revenge.

In northern Italy, the European Union has classified Hamas a terrorist group. EU foreign ministers accepted a proposal that the entire Hamas group be deemed as terrorist. Until now, the EU had distinguished between Hamas's political and military wings.

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