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Archive for Friday, April 7, 2006

Palestinian P.M. rejects Abbas’ attempts to diminish Hamas’ power

April 7, 2006

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— The new Palestinian prime minister said Thursday that his Cabinet will take control of the Palestinian security forces, putting his Hamas-led government on a collision course with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Deepening the tension, Abbas in-stalled a longtime ally as head of the three security branches in a battle for control of the 58,000-member police force, and he told Hamas it had to clear all foreign policy moves with him.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told The Associated Press that he rejects any attempts to take power away from Hamas, which won Jan. 25 parliamentary elections. His Cabinet was sworn in last week.

"There are attempts to create parallel frameworks to some ministries in the Palestinian government," Haniyeh said in an interview at his Gaza City headquarters. "But I don't think (Abbas) can keep up this pressure and take away power from this government."

Abbas' actions appeared aimed at persuading the international community that he, not Hamas, is in charge. Western donors have threatened to cut off aid if Hamas does not renounce violence and recognize Israel's right to exist, conditions the militant group has rejected.

Abbas, a moderate who was elected president last year, retains wide powers. He is the head of the National Security Council, which has final say over the Palestinian security forces, and he can issue wide-ranging decrees that do not need parliamentary approval.

Haniyeh said Abbas had assured him the security forces would remain under the control of the Hamas-led Cabinet, which, he said, did not take power "on the back of a tank" but in "transparent and fair elections."

But hours later, Abbas appointed a longtime ally, Rashid Abu Shbak, to lead the three security services that fall under Interior Minister Said Siyam, in addition to agencies already under the president's authority. Though Siyam would technically be Abu Shbak's boss, any dispute between the two would be resolved in the Abbas-headed National Security Council.

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