Abbas, Arafat Yet to Resolve Row Over Security Chief
ArabNews & Agencies
RAMALLAH, West Bank, 22 April 2003 — Less than three days before a deadline to announce his Cabinet or step down, Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Mahmud Abbas was still locked in a battle of wills with Yasser Arafat yesterday over his choice of a security chief capable of cracking down on militants.
The deadlock came amid a new spiral of violence in the region, a day after six Palestinians and an Israeli soldiers were killed and as Israeli forces reoccupying the West Bank seized a young woman they said was preparing a new bomb attack.
Abbas, the Palestine Liberation Organization second in command who stormed out of talks with Arafat late Saturday amid threats to quit, was refusing to back down on his insistence on appointing Gaza strongman Col. Mohammed Dahlan as head of internal security. Arafat, who fell out with Dahlan before the former Gaza security chief quit his job last year, believes his appointment would wrest control of the key internal security forces, a power he is keen to hold on to. "It could be a political catastrophe" if Abbas failed to meet the midnight (2100 GMT) tonight deadline to name his new Cabinet, said Israeli Arab MP Ahmed Tibi, a former adviser to Arafat.
Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, has until then to reveal his lineup or step aside for Arafat to name a new premier he deems capable of forming a government. One senior Palestinian official, who asked not to be named, said Arafat could nominate his long-standing International Affairs Minister Nabil Shaath for the post if no way out of the logjam is found.