Vol. 5 Num 171 Fri. November 12, 2004  
Front Page

Abbas PLO chief, Fattouh interim president

Parliament speaker Rawhi Fattouh was named interim Palestinian president on Thursday to replace Yasser Arafat who died hours before.

A special session of parliament swore Fattouh into the caretaker position under the Palestinians' basic law. Fattouh's key task will be to organize elections within 60 days.

Fattouh has no independent power base and is widely regarded as a transitional leader only.

Reform-minded former prime minister Mahmoud Abbas, who favors an end to violence and renewed peacemaking with Israel, was earlier elected chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Palestinians' highest decision-making body.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, another moderate, is expected to have greater sway over security bodies than he held under Arafat, charismatic founder of the Palestinian national cause who held all reins of power.

In another succession move, Farouk Kaddoumi, a hard-liner who advocates continued armed struggle against Israel for Palestinian statehood, was elected head of the PLO's main political movement, Fatah.

Some fear Arafat's departure will leave a chaotic void in which Palestinian factions will jockey for power.

Arafat was declared dead in a French hospital on Thursday at the age of 75.

AFP adds: Better known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Mazen, a name taken from his dead first-born son, Abbas quit as Arafat's first-ever premier in September 2003.

After barely four months in the job, he walked out after failing to wrest full control of the Palestinian security apparatus from the former strongman.

A Washington favourite, Abbas held talks with President George W. Bush, who cold-shouldered Arafat, in the White House in July 2003.

Last year, he led the Palestinian delegation at a summit in Jordan to launch the roadmap peace plan, where he pledged to "resort to peaceful means in our quest to end the occupation".

An outspoken critic of the "militarisation" of the Palestinian uprising, Abbas managed to persuade armed factions such as Hamas to call a truce in their campaign of attacks against Israel in July 2003.