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Palestinian Parliament Postpones Confidence Vote - 2003-08-31


The Palestinian parliament has postponed a vote of confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas which had been scheduled for Monday. The move came amid concerns that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat was planning to oust Mr. Abbas and appoint a successor. The Palestinian Legislative Council put off the vote of confidence in Mr. Abbas's government at least until Thursday.

The decision follows reports that the U.S. administration had intervened and asked for the delay, to give Mr. Abbas time to muster more support.

He is under challenge from Mr. Arafat, who reportedly wants to use the vote of confidence to have the Palestinian prime minister replaced.

Israel Radio, quoting Israeli officials, reported that U.S. officials have told the Palestinian leadership that if Mr. Abbas's government falls, the United States would withdraw its support for the internationally-backed "road map" peace plan for the Middle East.

The plan, which is backed by Russia, the European Union, the United Nations and the United States, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

In a related development, Israel has also sent a message to the Palestinian Authority saying it will not recognize or negotiate with a new Palestinian government that is appointed by Mr. Arafat.

The Palestinian president reluctantly appointed Mr. Abbas earlier this year as the first prime minister, following intense international pressure to share power and prepare the way for a new Palestinian leadership.

Since then the two men have been involved in a power struggle. Mr. Arafat has blocked key government appointments and has refused to hand over his control of most of the Palestinian security forces to Mr. Abbas.

On Saturday, dozens of armed supporters from the military wing of Mr. Arafat's Fatah faction occupied offices in Gaza City. The men said they would not allow Mr. Abbas's appointee to take responsibility for the key body in charge of employing Palestinian public servants.

Palestinian Information Minister Nabil Amr says efforts are being made to solve, what he described as, an internal crisis.

The speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmed Qureia, said the political situation within the Palestinian Authority had reached a stage where it is not acceptable to anybody and is very dangerous to the entire peace process.