Powell urges more power for prime minister

Monday, September 8, 2003

WASHINGTON -- The Palestinians' next prime minister must be free of the restraints on fighting terrorist groups that forced Mahmoud Abbas to quit in frustration, President Bush's foreign policy advisers said Sunday.

Otherwise, they said, progress toward completing the U.S.-backed plan to an independent Palestinian state by 2005 will remain stymied.

"If there is going to be a process to peace, if the road map is going to continue to unfold -- and I believe it can continue to unfold -- then there has to be a concerted effort against Hamas and other terrorist organizations and terror activity," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

"I hope that as the Palestinian Legislative Council considers this issue over the next several days, they will give the new prime minister the political power he needs, the political authority he needs and the resources that he needs to go after Hamas," Powell told NBC's "Meet the Press."

Abbas, who ended his stormy tenure Saturday, criticized his Palestinian detractors for undermining him. He took on Israel for failing, in his opinion, to meet its obligations under the peace plan, known as the road map. He also said the United States had not forced Israel to comply.

Abbas had become the Palestinian Authority's first prime minister in late spring, nominated by longtime leader Yasser Arafat and confirmed by the legislative council.

Powell said the United States "did everything we could to support him," but the council, Arafat and other Palestinian leaders "did not give Mr. Abbas the resources that he needed in order to go after Hamas."

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