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Abbas Appeals for Support of Palestinian Legislators - 2003-09-04


Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has asked legislators to support his government, and hinted he might resign if he does not get their backing. Addressing members of the Palestinian Legislative Council in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Mr. Abbas blamed Israel for the lack of progress toward peace.

Prime Minister Abbas called for a government with a unified authority and unity in decision-making. He warned that without a legitimate force in the hands of one authority, there would be no progress in implementing the Road Map to Peace.

He said it is up to lawmakers to provide the necessary power and resources. Mr. Abbas stopped short of calling for a vote of confidence, but said he would not fight to keep his job if the legislature does not give him the proper backing.

The political crisis is largely due to a power struggle between Mr. Abbas and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The Prime Minister acknowledged there are differences that need to addressed.

His appearance before the Legislative Council was to provide an assessment of his first 100 days in office. Mr. Abbas cited his government's cease-fire agreement with armed Palestinian factions as a major success.

He blamed Israel for the collapse of that truce and for the overall lack of progress toward peace. In particular, he singled out Israel's assassination of Palestinian militants and its continuing construction of a security fence.

Mr. Abbas said he would continue a dialogue with militant groups, rather than dismantle them. The issue has been a major sticking point.

Israel and the United States are demanding the factions be disarmed and dismantled, and action to dismantle terrorist groups is also called for in the Roadmap peace plan. Mr. Abbas has not wanted to confront the militants head on, fearing a civil war.

In his speech, the Prime Minister called for all Palestinian factions to break the cycle of violence.

The Prime Minister said he remains committed to a relationship with the United States, but accused Washington of not doing enough to pressure Israel to restrain military action and take steps toward peace.