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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Abu Mazen could be toppled. Does it matter?

Yahoo News/Associated Press:
Postponing a showdown, the Palestinian parliament speaker temporarily blocked a confidence vote Wednesday that was sought by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in his power struggle with Yasser Arafat.

If a vote is held in the coming days, the U.S.-backed Abbas could be toppled, dealing a heavy blow to efforts to end three years of violence and move toward Palestinian statehood. The prime minister has minimal support among Palestinians, many of whom say they distrust him because he has Israel's backing.

Abbas is to address parliament Thursday to sum up his first 100 days in office, a period marked by somewhat reduced violence but also disappointment over a lack of movement in implementing the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan.

Abbas' report will be debated, but legislators said a confidence vote is not expected for at least another week. In the meantime, parliament will try to help end the wrangling between Arafat and Abbas over their authority, particularly control of the security forces.

Israel has warned of dire consequences should Abbas be ousted, saying it won't do business with a government hand-picked by Arafat. Several Palestinian legislators said they were told by local U.S. diplomats that with Abbas gone, Washington might lower its profile as Mideast mediator.