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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 September, 2003, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
Abu Mazen to make key speech
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
The power struggle appears to be coming to a head
The beleaguered Palestinian prime minister is due to defend his policies in a crucial speech to the Palestinian parliament on Thursday.

Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, is reportedly threatening to resign if MPs fail to endorse his work on the peace process.

He has been locked in a power struggle with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who has reportedly declared the peace plan known as the roadmap "dead".

However, the speaker of the parliament in Ramallah, Ahmed Qureia, has played down speculation that a vote of confidence will be called by the prime minister on Thursday.

"Parliament will not accept being turned into a place of conflict or to be part of the current crisis," said Mr Qureia, in an apparent reference to relations between Abu Mazen and Mr Arafat.

Earlier, the Palestinian Information Minister, Nabil Amr, was quoted as telling Reuters news agency that Abu Mazen would ask MPs "for support for his policies or he leaves".

Power struggle

On Tuesday, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz called for Mr Arafat to be expelled, accusing him of obstructing the peace process.

Palestinian police
Backed by Mohammed Dahlan, Minister of State for Security Affairs (rival to Jibril Rajoub)
Civil Police; Civil Defence; Preventative Security Service

Backed by Jibril Rajoub, National Security Advisor (rival to Mohammed Dahlan)
General Intelligence; National Security Forces; Force 17; Military Intelligence; naval forces

Mr Arafat was, he said, a "major obstacle" for Abu Mazen and for the whole political process.

The Palestinian leader has been quoted by US network CNN as saying in an interview that the roadmap is dead "because of Israeli military aggression in recent weeks".

Abu Mazen has been scheduled to address the Palestinian parliament on Thursday to report on his first 100 days in office.

Correspondents say his policies have increasingly brought him into conflict with Mr Arafat, notably over responsibility for policing within the Palestinian Authority (PA).

Mr Amr said that the prime minister would tell MPs that his government needed to have full powers "especially in the security and administrative fields".

The PA government's efforts to control militant groups which launch attacks on Israel have so far been largely confined to measures such as freezing the bank accounts of Islamic charities with alleged links to Hamas.

Mr Arafat largely still controls the PA's security services.

US warning

The prime ministership of Abu Mazen was created after the United States refused to deal with Mr Arafat, describing him as a leader "tainted by terrorism".

Gaza City funeral on Wednesday of Palestinian killed in Israeli air strike
Israel has been striking at Hamas itself, accusing the PA of inaction
Since then, Mr Arafat has done everything possible not to let his comrade accumulate more power as prime minister than he has himself as the father of his people's liberation struggle, says the BBC's Martin Asser.

On Sunday, US envoy John Wolf reportedly warned Palestinian officials that Washington would "not allow the fall of the Abbas Government".

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Tuesday that Mr Arafat was still "part of the problem... [and] not helping to bring a solution".

In another development, Israel has announced it is allowing up to 10,000 Palestinian workers and about 1,000 traders from the Gaza Strip to enter Israel to reach jobs there for the first time since a deadly bomb attack on a bus in Jerusalem in August.

Palestinian security sources confirmed that about 4,000 workers had made their way through the main Erez crossing.

About 30,000 Gaza Palestinians were legally employed in Israel before the start of the uprising three years ago, mainly in the construction and agricultural sectors.

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