RealNews

Arafat Wants No. 2 Man in the P.L.O. as the Premier

Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, told senior associates tonight that he had settled on his longtime No. 2 in the P.L.O., Mahmoud Abbas, to be his new prime minister, Palestinian officials said. Mr. Abbas, called Abu Mazen, is known to be a critic of the Palestinian uprising, albeit a cautious one, and he has cultivated strong relationships over the years with diplomats and officials on the Israeli side. The move, clearly reluctant on Mr. Arafat’s part, is the result of diplomatic pressures and internal Palestinian political shifts, both of which pointed to Mr. Abbas as the consensus candidate for the new post. The prime minister’s duties have yet to be defined, but the appointment of Mr. Abbas — provided he accepts it — may ultimately force Mr. Arafat to begin ceding some of his tightly held authority. Mr. Abbas has long been mentioned as a potential successor to Mr. Arafat. Mr. Abbas said today that he would accept the post of prime minister only if it was not merely symbolic, according to Reuters. The news service quoted him as saying, “The position is not as important as the powers of the prime minister.” Full Story

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