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Palestinian PM Abbas Threatens to Resign Unless Government Endorsed - 2003-09-03

Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is threatening to quit if the Palestinian legislature does not endorse his government at a session scheduled for Thursday.

Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, is, in effect, seeking a vote of confidence and a new mandate from the Palestinian parliament, if he is to stay in office.

Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amir says unless Mr. Abbas wins a full parliamentary endorsement he will quit at a session to be held in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr. Abbas' ultimatum to the parliament is the latest twist in a power struggle, between him and Mr. Arafat, about who is really in charge of the Palestinian Authority.

A prominent member of the legislative council, Saeb Erekat, says the crisis is threatening to harm both leaders and must be resolved.

"I think this a very difficult situation and I know that there are many big efforts being exerted at these hours in order to overcome all these difficulties," said Mr. Erekat. "We have to overcome these difficulties because at the end of the day, the equation weakening President Arafat is really weakening Abu Mazen [Abbas], and weakening Abu Mazen is weakening President Arafat."

Mr. Erekat is one of a number of senior Palestinian lawmakers attempting to reach a power-sharing compromise that would be acceptable to both Mr. Arafat and Mr. Abbas.

Mr. Arafat reluctantly agreed, earlier this year, to appoint Mr. Abbas as the first Palestinian Prime Minister. The appointment followed intense international pressure on Mr. Arafat to share power and pave the way for a new Palestinian leadership.

Since then, Mr. Abbas's supporters say he has been unable to pursue a program of reform because of Mr. Arafat's refusal to give up control of such areas as security. Mr. Abbas has demanded full authority over the various Palestinian security forces in order to stop armed Palestinian groups from launching more attacks against Israel.