- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 11, 2003

GAZA, March 11 (UPI) — Islamic militants on Tuesday declared their opposition to the Palestinian Authority's decision to create a new post of prime minister. Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they would never accept a post that was imposed under pressure from Israel and the United States.

The Palestinian parliament on Monday approved appointing a prime minister nominated by President Yasser Arafat.

Three opposition left-wing parties of the Palestine Liberation Organization also expressed reservations about creating the new post.

Hamas's spokesman in Gaza, Abdel Aziz Ranteesi, said his movement could never accept creation of a new office "as a result of the pressure of the Zionists and the Americans who are aiming at killing our intifada and our resistance."

Ranteesi said that Hamas was not opposing individuals within the Palestinian Authority, but that "we reject blind dictation and immediate response to the American and Zionist desires.

"We don't actually need to create a new post of prime minister or redeploy officials in the Palestinian Authority. What we need is to end the (Israeli) occupation and aggressive military actions against our people," he said.

Mohamed al-Hindi, a senior Islamic Jihad leader, said his organization is not very interested in the authority's decision "as long as the Israeli government continues its military actions against the Palestinian people."

The leftist Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine as well as the pro-Iraqi Arab Liberation Front said in a joint communiqu that nominating Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, as prime minister "was a clear Palestinian response to American and Israel pressure exercised on the Palestinian Authority."

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a top aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, announced Tuesday that Arafat would instruct Abu Mazen to form a new Cabinet in the coming 48 hours.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo blasted the United States for ignoring the creation of the new post.

"We consider the U.S. lack of comment on creating the office of prime minister an attempt to escape from its commitments to carry out positive steps as a response to the positive Palestinian step," Abed Rabbo told Voice of Palestine radio.

Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Nabil Shaath said that Abu Mazen would play an important role in the process of peace negotiations with Israel, adding that Abu Mazen's role would be in coordination with Arafat.

Abu Mazen would also work in coordination with the minister of interior, Shaath said.

"President Arafat remains the elected president of the Palestinian people and their symbolic leader, and he is the one who signs on laws and he is the one who rejects the laws. He is the one who nominates and he is the one who fires," said Shaath.

In Jerusalem, Minister of Trade and Industry Ehud Olmert said he was willing to consider Abu Mazen's appointment "a positive sign."

Olmert told Channel 1 Tuesday that it is still "superficial, not serious (and) hasty" to conclude that Abu Mazen's appointment "creates a change that enables us to open a new track with the Palestinians." He added that Abu Mazen must prove he has the power to make change in the Palestinian Authority.

Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces destroyed a building in Hebron from which militants allegedly shot and killed an Israeli soldier and wounded three others on Monday.

Israeli troops also destroyed the home of an Islamic Jihad militant in Silat al-Hartiyah, near the West Bank town of Jenin. The army said Anis Jaradat was involved in planning several car bombings.

IDF soldiers in Khan Yunes, in the southern Gaza Strip, destroyed an alleged bomb-making laboratory, the army spokesman said.

Israeli soldiers shot and killed three Palestinian militants in both Hebron and the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources said.

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