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Leaders Unable to Decide on Palestinian Cabinet - 2003-04-21


Yasser Arafat and his prime minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas are still unable to reach a decision over the make-up of the Palestinian cabinet. The failure to resolve the dispute could threaten plans to re-launch Middle East Peace efforts. Kimberly Russell reports.

Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, reportedly stormed out of a meeting with Yasser Arafat Saturday after Mr. Arafat refused to support his list of cabinet appointments.

Mr. Abbas insists the nominees be accepted, and some negotiators speculate he will refuse the Prime Minister’s job if Mr. Arafat does not approve.

Palestinian legislator Hanan Ashrawi says it’s a complicated political situation.

HANAN ASHRAWI, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATOR
“The difficulty is compounded by the fact that President Arafat has been elected by the people directly. Abu Mazen, Mahmoud Abbas, has not been elected, but at the same time he fulfills other requirements. So, people are willing to give him the benefit of the doubt in order to build a democratic system, and of course people are still loyal to Arafat, they want him there; they don’t want him negated.”

Mr. Mazen has until Wednesday to present his government to the Palestinian legislature for approval.

He has repeatedly said he must be able to act independently if Israel and the international community are to have confidence in him as a potential partner in peace negotiations.

At the same time, the Bush administration has said it will not issue its “roadmap for peace” until Mr. Mazen and his new cabinet are in place.

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