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April 19, 2003

U.S. tells Abu Mazen to stand up to Arafat's pressure

How this plays out will determine a lot. If Arafat "wins," he loses. If Mazen wins, Arafat is history and the US will move further to pave The Road (two-state solution)
Senior United States sources have relayed messages to newly appointed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) in recent days, urging him to stand up to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's pressure on appointments in the Palestinian cabinet, Israel Radio reported on Saturday. The cabinet is expected to be announced in the coming days.

The Americans clarified to Abu Mazen that his current mission has historic proportions and stressed to the new prime minister that he should use the wide-spread international support that he now has.

According to reports received in Jerusalem, the U.S. administration strongly supports Abu Mazen due to his political stance and his intention to take action to end the intifada, but the administration has reservations as to Abu Mazen's ability to contend with Arafat.

Palestinian sources said that a meeting scheduled for Friday between Abu Mazen, Arafat, and senior Fatah officials was cancelled due to differences of opinion over Abu Mazen's intention to appoint former Gaza security chief Mohammed Dahlan as a minister without portfolio on security matters in his new cabinet, Israel Radio reported on Saturday. Arafat wants Dahlan kept away from any security portfolio.

Abu Mazen could well take office by next week. He and Arafat reached agreement on almost all of the ministers who will make up the new cabinet at a lengthy meeting late Thursday night.

Arafat had opposed the initial cabinet proposed by Abu Mazen because it would have sidelined a number of his loyalists, and the remaining point of dispute is the role that Dahlan will play