World

Abbas threatens to quit over leadership

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas told lawmakers Thursday he would not launch a crackdown on militant groups

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas told lawmakers Thursday to support him or remove his mandate.

Abbas, weakened by a power struggle with President Yasser Arafat, told the parliament there were problems between his government and the Palestinian leadership, but didn't mention Arafat by name.

Abbas also said he would not launch a crackdown on militant groups, saying he would continue talks with the militants rather than attempt to disarm and dismantle the groups.

About 200 activists for Arafat's ruling Fatah movement demonstrated outside the parliament building, promising to defend the veteran Palestinian leader.

Seven masked men from the crowd broke down a door to the building and smashed windows before guards forced them out.

In his speech, Abbas summed up his first 100 days in office, which saw militant groups declare a ceasefire that broke down in three weeks. There has been little progress in implementing the U.S.-backed road map to peace.

The parliament's Speaker, Ahmed Qureia, has blocked a confidence vote that Abbas wanted to follow his speech. Qureia said parliament wouldn't be dragged into the power struggle between Abbas and Arafat.

The two Palestinian leaders have reportedly not spoken to each other in more than a week.

The main point of contention between the two is control over the Palestinian security forces.

Although Abbas doesn't have the popular support that Arafat has, both the Israelis and the Americans prefer to deal with Abbas.

Before the parliamentary session, Palestinian gunmen killed an Israeli in an ambush in Jenin in the West Bank.

The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group linked to the Fatah movement, claimed responsibility.