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April 09, 2003

Palestinian Premier Faces Competing Demands Over Cabinet

Problems await Palestinian premier, says this piece in The New York Times (reg req'd)
The new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, is battling to form a government as he faces wide-ranging demands from fellow Palestinians, including his boss, Yasir Arafat.

Mr. Abbas, who was appointed three weeks ago, appears unlikely to meet a Thursday deadline for establishing a new government. He is expected to request an additional two weeks from Mr. Arafat, the Palestinian leader.


The publicity-shy Mr. Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen, has maintained his customary silence despite his high-profile position. Those close to him say he wants to overhaul the cabinet, bringing in technocrats and rooting out endemic corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

But a major shake-up would mean dismissing longtime loyalists of Mr. Arafat, who wants only minor adjustments to a cabinet he formed less than a year ago, Palestinians said.

Mr. Abbas is receiving backing from the West, and the United States has pledged to formally present a Middle East peace initiative, known as the road map, as soon as the new Palestinian cabinet is sworn in.

"I'm pleased with the new leader of the Palestinian Authority," President Bush said today in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland, at a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain. "I look forward to him finally putting his cabinet in place so we can release the road map."[more]