Abbas Takes New Post as Palestinian Premier

From Associated Press

Pragmatist and moderate Mahmoud Abbas accepted the position of Palestinian prime minister Wednesday in the first real promise of ending the bloody Israeli-Palestinian deadlock of 30 months.

Abbas, known as Abu Maazen, accepted the position a day after the parliament approved creation of the post, said Nabil abu Rudaineh, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

Arafat on Wednesday formally asked the 67-year-old Abbas to serve as prime minister and form a new Cabinet. The two have known each other for four decades. In the 1960s, they co-founded Fatah, the Palestinian faction that has led the struggle for statehood.

The reclusive Abbas has never challenged Arafat in public, but their relationship often has been stormy. They have argued in private -- most recently about the direction of the conflict with Israel -- and Abbas sometimes would withdraw in anger for extended periods, waiting for Arafat to offer reconciliation.

The tensions became apparent at a Tuesday meeting of Fatah leaders, participants said. Arafat groused that U.S. officials offered to receive Abbas in Washington while continuing to boycott him, the elected Palestinian leader.

Abbas tried to reassure Arafat, saying he would never betray him and reminding him of their shared history, according to those present.

The Palestinian parliament assigned considerable powers to the future prime minister, giving him the right to form a Cabinet and supervise the ministers, tasks once the sole preserve of Arafat.

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