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April 23, 2003

Abbas turns back on Arafat

So says Jordan Times What goes on in that duplicitous Arafat mind, now that he has become so transparent
RAMALLAH (AFP) — Hopes that reformist Palestinian prime minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas will declare a Cabinet were fading fast Tuesday after he said he would no longer discuss the formation of a new government with Yasser Arafat.
The publication of a US-backed peace “roadmap” for Israel and the Palestinians is dependent on the formation of the government.

As international pressure piled on Arafat to back down just 36 hours before a deadline for forming the new Cabinet, frantic last-minute discussions were under way in Fateh, the faction the two men founded together more than 40 years ago, to find a way out of the impasse.

“Things have broken down between me and Arafat. I will not come back,” Abbas was quoted as saying by one mediator close to efforts to jump-start talks between the two leaders which stalled late Saturday with Abbas walking out and threatening to quit.

Abbas has until midnight (2100 GMT) Wednesday to name a new Cabinet or step aside, jeopardising the chances for the international roadmap, which US President George W. Bush has said he will release when the moderate new leader has revealed his lineup.

The international community has pinned its hopes of overhauling the Palestinian leadership and renewing the peace process on Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen.

Israel and Washington accuse Arafat of fuelling violence and want him replaced.

In a last-ditch effort to save the talks in the West Bank town of Ramallah, parliamentary speaker Ahmad Qoureia was sent to meet Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, to try to persuade him to come back.

But one parliamentarian told AFP that the chances of bridging the gap between the two men were “very, very weak.”