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Arafat and Abbas in apparent political showdown
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) - Pales-
tinian officials struggled to ease tension
between Yasser Arafat and his prime minis-
ter, Mahmoud Abbas, while Israel and the
United States cautioned against any move
to oust Abbas.
The prime minister was set to address parlia-
ment 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.
Saying the legislature shouldn't be
dragged into the power struggle between
Abbas and Arafat, parliament speaker
Ahmad Qureia on Wednesday temporarily
blocked a confidence vote that Abbas had
sought to call following his address.
Abbas was reluctantly appointed by
Arafat as the Palestinians' first prime min-
ister in April under pressure from Israel and
the United States, which have accused
Arafat of blocking peace efforts.
i But the prime minister could be toppled
if a vote is held in the coming days, dealing
a heavy blow to efforts to end three years of
violence and move toward Palestinian state-
hood. The prime minister has minimal sup-
port among Palestinians, many of whom
say they distrust him because he has Israel's
But legislators said a confidence vote is
not expected for at least another week dur-
ing which time they will try to help end the
wrangling between Arafat and Abbas over
authority, particularly control of the securi-
Secretary of State Colin Powell, meanwhile,
said in Washington that Arafat - whom the U.S.
and Israel have sought to isolate - "has not been
playing a helpful role."
"If he wanted to play a helpful role he
would be supporting Prime Minister Abbas,
not frustrating his efforts," Powell said.
Israel has warned of dire consequences
should Abbas be ousted, saying it will not
do business with a government hand-picked
by Arafat. Several Palestinian legislators
said they were told by local U.S. diplomats
that if Abbas is ousted, Washington might
lower its profile as Mideast mediator.
Abbas has told a senior Palestinian offi-
cial he wants Thursday's debate to be fol-
lowed by a confidence vote, but he has not
made a formal request and has declined
Winning parliament's support would help
Abbas in his confrontation with Arafat, who is
accused by Israel of fomenting terrorism. Defeat
would allow him to step down without being
blamed for the consequences, such as the possi-
ble collapse of the road map.
The continued deadlock indicates each
man needs the other. The international sup-
port enjoyed by Abbas helps shield Arafat
from possible Israeli action, like expulsion.
Abbas, in turn, needs Arafat to provide
legitimacy for his government among
"They depend on each other, kind of like
an old couple that can't stand each other,
but can't live apart," Israeli analyst Mark
Qureia said a confidence vote in parlia-
ment is not needed for now because Abbas
already won the legislators' confidence
when his appointment was affirmed in
However, parliament will hold another
session next Wednesday, and if Arafat and
Abbas have not reached a power-sharing
agreement by then, a confidence vote might
be held, legislators said.
The power struggle has intensified in
Abbas demands that Arafat relinquish
control of four security branches; Abbas
commands the other four security services.
Arafat has balked, fearing he would lose his
main source of power.
Israel and the United States want Abbas
to crack down on Hamas and other militant
groups, as required by the road map.
Israel's Cabinet decided earlier this week to
freeze implementation of the road map
until Abbas orders a clampdown.
Ahead of the parliament session, Israel
sent strong warnings to the Palestinians.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said
Israel won't negotiate with an Arafat-controlled
government, and Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
warned on Tuesday that Israel may have to expel
Arafat soon if he keeps getting in the way of
Mofaz spoke several days after Israeli
security officials again reviewed a possible
expulsion and came to the conclusion that it
would do more harm than good.
For nearly two years, Israeli troops and threats
have kept Arafat marooned inside his West Bank
headquarters, which has been heavily damaged
by tank shells and bulldozers.
State Department spokesman Richard
Boucher said Powell "has made clear that
Arafat is part of the problem at this point
and is not helping to bring a solution."
Still, Boucher said Israel had informed
the U.S. government there was no plan to
expel Arafat and "our view was that was the
European support for U.S.
continues downward slide
BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -
After the Iraq war, support for U.S.
global leadership has faded badly in
European nations, most dramatical-
ly in Germany and France which
strenuously opposed the war,
according to a survey released
President Bush's standing has just
about evaporated in Germany where
his approval rating is 16 percent -
down from 36 percent in 2002 -
and where public opinion increas-
ingly questions American leader-
ship, said the Trans-Atlantic Trends
"The Germany that never sought
to choose between Europe and the
United States has now expressed an
unambiguous preference for
Europe," it said.
The war has made the trans-
Atlantic disconnect so significant
that large chunks of public opinion
in France (70 percent), Germany
and Italy (both 50 percent), Portu-
gal (44 percent) now see U.S lead-
ership as undesirable, the poll
"The trans-Atlantic split over the
war in Iraq has-underminedAmeri-
cans' standing with Europeans," it
The survey of the German Mar-
shall Fund of the United States and
the Compagnia di Sao Paolo, a
Turin foundation devoted to devel-
oping interest in international
affairs in Italy was held in mid-
June, two months after U.S. troops
ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hus-
Washington went to war bypass-
ing the United Nations, whose sup-
port it failed to win due to
The Trans-Atlantic Trends 2003
survey found broad support on both
sides of the Atlantic to strengthen
the United Nations. However, 36
percent of Americans - and only
16 percent of Europeans - say it is
all right to bypass the organization
to defend vital national interests,
the survey found.
It said that hard on the heels of
the Iraq war, Bush's foreign policies
polled only a 30 percent approval
rating across Europe, down from 38
percent in 2002.
In Britain and the Netherlands he
fares better than in 2002: 35 percent
of Britons approve of his foreign
policies (up from 30 percent last
year) and 31-prtent of the Dutch"
(up from 28 percent), the survey
However, Bush's dismal 16 per-
cent approval in Germany almost
matches the tally in France (15 per-
cent, against 21 percent in 2002).
The American president polled a
40-percent support level in Italy
(down from 57 percent), 58 percent
in Poland (down from 62 percent)
and 41 percent in Portugal which
was not polled in 2002, according
to the survey.
In concert with Bush's fading
stature, 81 percent of Germans -
up from 55 percent in 2002 -now
say the European Union as more
important to their vital interests
than America, which kept West Ger-
many safe from the Soviet Union
during four Cold War decades. Only
9 percent see the United States as
key to safeguarding their country's
"The German result is definitely
one of the most interesting," said
Abigail Golden-Vazquez, communi-
cations director of the German Mar-
shall Fund of the United States in
The survey consisted of tele-
phone interviews with 1,000 people
each in Britain, France, Germany,
the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and
the United States and face-to-face
interviews in Poland. It has a 3-
point margin of error.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder led his Social Democratic Party to victory this year opposing a war in Iraq. Though
relations between himself and President Bush have warmed recently, the U.S. president suffers dismal approval numbers in
At least four killed in bomb blasts on Russian commuter trains
ROSTOV-ON-DON, Russia (AP)
- Two bomb blasts rocked a rush-
hour commuter train carrying col-
lege students in southern Russia on
Wednesday, killing at least four
people and wounding dozens.
The bombs were planted on the
tracks linking Kislovodsk to Miner-
alnye Vody in the Caucasus region.
There were about 50 people in the
third car of the six-car train, which
was directly hit by one blast, Rail-
way Ministry spokesman Konstantin
Survivors reported many of the
passengers were college students.
Many Russian universities began
their fall semesters this week.
There were varying reports on the
Dmitry Oiferenko, a spokesman
for President Vladimir Putin's envoy
to southern Russia, said five people
were killed, while Russian Railways
Minister Gennady Fadeyev said in
televised comments that six died.
However, Regional Emergency
Situations Ministry spokesman Igor
Mikhailov said four were killed and
33 were wounded in the explosions
as the train was approaching a sta-
tion in Podkumok, a town on the
outskirts of Kislovodsk, 870 miles
south of Moscow.
Mikhailov said 21 of the injured
remained hospitalized, eight of
them in serious condition.
NTV television reported that the
dead were an 18-year-old woman,
two 21-year-old men and a 15-year-
No group immediately claimed
responsibility for the blasts.
Viktor Kazantsev, President
Vladimir Putin's envoy to southern
Russia, told state television that
police had arrested a man suspected
of detonating the bombs. Police said
the suspect was injured in the
explosion and was hospitalized in
Russia has been hit recently by
numerous bombings and other attacks,
which the government usually blames on
rebels from Chechnya.
An officer at the headquarters of
the Caucasus Military District,
which oversees Chechnya, said on
condition of anonymity that the mil-
itary had received intelligence
that the rebels wer(
preparing a series of attacks ii
Wednesday's explosions occurre'
just as Putin was scheduled to chai:
a meeting of regional governors i
Rostov-on-Don, about 280 mile;
northwest of the site of the bomb.
ings. Putin spoke with Stavropo
governor Alexander Chernogoro
about the blasts, news agencie:
*North Korean govt. affirms tough stance on arms-control talks
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea's parlia-
ment re-elected Kim Jong Il as the isolated country's
top leader on Wednesday, and approved his govern-
ment's decision to "keep and increase its nuclear deter-
rent force" to counter what it calls a hostile U.S. policy.
As Kim watched from a raised platform, the Supreme
People's Assembly - a rubber-stamp body for govern-
ment policy - adopted a statement that also backed
the Foreign Ministry's announcement last week that
North Korea no longer had "interest or expectations"
9 for future talks on its nuclear program, according to the
North's official news agency KCNA.
KCNA also reported that the parliament "decided to
take relevant measures." The news agency did not elab-
North Korea's envoy to the six-nation talks in Beijing
on the North's nuclear crisis last week warned that the
reclusive state might test a nuclear device to prove
itself a nuclear power, a U.S. official said on condition
Representatives from the United States, the two
Koreas, Japan, China and Russia met last week in Bei-
jing to discuss ways to end the nuclear crisis. After the
meeting, China, North Korea's only remaining major
ally, released a statement saying all six countries
agreed to continue to talk.
A day after the three-day Beijing meeting ended on
Friday, however, Pyongyang's Foreign Ministry angrily
dismissed the need for more talks and vowed to "keep
and strengthen its nuclear deterrent force as a just self-
defensive means to repel the U.S. pre-emptive nuclear
attacks," the parliament said.
The North's newly elected parliament, which con-
vened Wednesday, supported the government's deci-
Meanwhile, cars mounted with loudspeakers went
around North Korea announcing that the parliament re-
elected leader Kim Jong Il as chairman of the National
Defense Commission, which oversees the country's 1.1
million armed forces - the world's fifth largest mili-
tary. By constitution, Kim's post is the highest in gov-
Streets were decorated with flags and flowers, brass
bands struck up tunes, and school children sang songs
Kim, who rules the impoverished country of 22 mil-
lion people with a personality cult inherited from his
late father, believes that the survival of his regime
depends on how profitably he plays his nuclear card,
experts say. U.S. President Bush labels Kim's regime
part of an "axis of evil" along with Iraq and Iran.
The parliament also appointed Park Bong Ju, its min-
ister of chemical industries, to replace Hong Sung Nam
as premier. Park's appointment was seen as reflecting
Pyongyang's efforts to revive its economy.
During the Beijing talks, North Korea said the Unit-
ed States must sign a nonaggression treaty, open diplo-
matic ties and provide economic aid before it can feel
safe enough to dismantle its nuclear program. The
United States insisted that North Korea first scrap its
nuclear program before Washington can consider pro-
viding security guarantees and help for its moribund
The Beijing talks "offered the DPRK an opportunity
to confirm that the Bush administration still intends to
disarm the DPRK and use the multilateral talks for lay-
ing an international siege to the DPRK to isolate and
stifle the DPRK," the parliamentary decision said.
On Wednesday in Seoul, Chinese parliamentary
leader Wu Bangguo discussed the nuclear standoff with
South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun.
"China supports a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula and
a peaceful resolution. But the North's concerns must
also be addressed," Wu said at a reception hosted by
Chinese Ambassador Li Bin.
On Monday, China's chief delegate to the negotia-
tions had said that Washington's policy toward North
Korea was one of the main obstacles in the talks.
"American's policy toward DPRK; this is a main prob-
lem we are facing," Vice Foreign Minister Wang Yi told
reporters in the Philippines.
Despite the North's threat to boycott future meetings,
other participants said the six parties reached a tenta-
tive agreement to meet again around October.
Tensions on the Korean Peninsula have been high
since October, when U.S. officials said North Korea
admitted running a nuclear program in violation of