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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April, 2003, 21:53 GMT 22:53 UK
Profile: Mohammed Dahlan
By Raffi Berg
BBC News Online

Mohammed Dahlan, the man agreed as the Palestinian Authority's minister of state for security, was until recently one of the most powerful Palestinians next to Yasser Arafat and retains the potential to replace him.

Mohammed Dahlan
Dahlan is one of the youngest Palestinian leaders

Mr Arafat had opposed his selection but Prime Minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas secured Mr Dahlan's nomination after bitter wrangling.

The former Preventative Security Chief for the Gaza Strip is one of the youngest Palestinian leaders and has the confidence of the United States and, to some extent, Israel.

He is, according to Israeli media, the only Palestinian besides Mr Arafat to have been granted a private meeting with former US President Bill Clinton.

Mr Dahlan is someone the Israelis feel they could do business with.

He was part of the Palestinian delegation at the Camp David peace talks in the summer of 2000, where, he says, he was "one of those who fought hardest to reach an agreement" with the Israelis.

As head of one of the main Palestinian security organisations, Mr Dahlan also negotiated with Israeli officials to try to arrange a ceasefire several times after the second Palestinian intifada or uprising erupted in September 2000.

But Mr Dahlan has also been closely linked to one of the militant groups at the forefront of the current fighting, the Tanzim in Gaza, which has carried out scores of attacks on Israelis.

Arrest and expulsion

Born to a refugee family in Gaza in 1961, Mr Dahlan grew up under Egyptian, then Israeli, control.

He joined the ranks of Palestinian activists who fought Israeli rule and says he was jailed 10 times by Israel between 1981 and 1986.

During his time in prison, Mr Dahlan learned to speak fluent Hebrew.

After the first intifada broke out in 1987, Mr Dahlan became one of the uprising's young leaders, but he was swiftly arrested and deported by the Israelis to Jordan, then by Jordan to Egypt and by Egypt to Iraq.

He joined the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), then based in the Tunisian capital, Tunis, from where he continued to orchestrate protests in the West Bank and Gaza, earning Mr Arafat's trust.

Pragmatic and tactical, Mr Dahlan recognised the gains to be made from Israeli overtures and was involved in secret talks with Israel which led to the Oslo peace accords of 1993 and the creation of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

He returned to Gaza with Mr Arafat in 1994 and was rewarded with control of the security forces in the PA's powerbase.

Suspicion

But with the outbreak of the second intifada, Mr Dahlan's credibility on the Palestinian street has been eroded.

Under pressure from Israel and the United States, Mr Dahlan's security forces cracked down on Islamic militants from time to time - a deeply unpopular move among Palestinians.

His good relations with Israel and the United States are also viewed with deep suspicion by some Palestinians, who regard dealing with the US and Israel as colluding with the enemy.

Mr Dahlan supported calls for reforming the Palestinian Authority, and resigned his post as security chief on 5 June 2002 in the hope that he would be reinstated as newly created interior minister in Mr Arafat's reshuffled cabinet.

But his gamble did not pay off and he was offered a job as Mr Arafat's security adviser instead.

Nine months later, the job of interior minister came up again and Mr Dahlan was the choice of Mr Abbas.

The deal reached between Mr Abbas and Mr Arafat means the job will go to Mr Abbas, but Mr Dahlan will report to the prime minister on the key area of security.

Despite this apparent victory over Mr Arafat, Mr Dahlan has said earlier he does not plan to challenge Mr Arafat for overall leadership any time soon.

In an interview with the UK's Guardian newspaper on 2 July, 2002, Mr Dahlan said: "As long as the Israelis are against Arafat, I'm with him - whatever reservations I have about some of the decisions that have been made."




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