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Abbas asks Palestinian council for support

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asked for more power from the Palestinian Legislative Council on Thursday.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asked for more power from the Palestinian Legislative Council on Thursday.

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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas talks about his rift with Yasser Arafat, reforms and the road map to peace.
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CNN's Matthew Chance reports Israeli strikes are raising anger and frustration among Palestinians.
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- In a crucial address Thursday, Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas asked the Palestinian Legislative Council for more power as he faces a political struggle with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.

"You either provide me support so that I can be loyal to this trust you have put in me, or you take it back," said Abbas, addressing the council on his first 100 days in office.

Arafat has retained control of Palestinian security forces even as Abbas has been promising to try to persuade Palestinian militant groups to end attacks on Israeli targets.

"I do not deny that there is a problem within the authority, between the government and the presidency, between the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization," Abbas said. "This problem needs to be fundamentally corrected."

But he called on the leadership to avoid polarization and not allow "personal agendas" to guide decision-making.

Abbas did not seek a confidence vote, a risky move because he may lack adequate backing to remain in power. But 15 council members initiated a no-confidence motion, and a vote was set aside for later discussion.

The Palestinian Legislative Council will have a closed meeting Saturday with Abbas present and is seeking a session with Arafat.

Criticism of the U.S.

In his address, Abbas criticized the United States for refusing to communicate with Arafat.

"The relationship between the United States with the Palestinian President Yasser Arafat is unacceptable," he said.

The United States and Israel accuse Arafat of organizing and supporting terrorist attacks.

Outside the compound in Ramallah where Abbas spoke, masked militants sprayed graffiti and broke down a door before guards stopped them. Palestinian protesters elsewhere accused Abbas of collaborating with Israel and the United States.

The United States has pinned its hopes for Middle East peace largely on Abbas and repeatedly has demanded that he crack down on terrorist groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has called on Arafat to cede security authority to Abbas, but so far, the Palestinian president has refused. The United States said Arafat's refusal is hindering Abbas' efforts to move ahead on the "road map" to peace.

The road map -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- aims to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establish an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

In his Thursday address, Abbas called on those four nations to help revive the shattered plan. "We believe the quartet needs to work harder to salvage the situation," he said, "[and] bring life back to the plan that was approved and accepted by many."

Abbas also asked all parties in the Middle East to reject violence and seek a political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Militant, soldier killed

Israeli forces early Friday killed a leader of the militant group Hamas in a shootout in the West Bank town of Nablus, Palestinian security sources said.

Mohammed Al-Hambali, the leader of Hamas in Nablus, was killed as Israeli forces were moving in to arrest him. Twelve other members of the Hamas leadership have been killed by Israel since August 21.

An Israeli soldier was also killed in the gunbattle, and four other soldiers were injured -- one critically -- during the Nablus raid, according to the Israel Defense Forces.

The IDF said Israeli troops were looking for wanted Palestinians when a group of militants opened fire on them. The Israelis returned fire.

Palestinian sources said Israeli forces fired rockets into the building the militants were using as cover.

Abbas: 'Move away from assassination and destruction'

Declaring an "all-out war" against Hamas, the Israeli government has carried out six so-called targeted killings of Hamas members since the group and Palestinian Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for an August 19 terrorist bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed 21 people.

Since then, Israel has killed 12 Hamas figures and left another one brain-dead and on life support. Four Palestinian bystanders also have been killed in the Israeli attacks, according to Palestinian security sources.

The renewed violence brought an end to a seven-week cease-fire by the military wing of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

In his Thursday speech, Abbas blamed Israel for the cease-fire's end, complaining that Israeli forces pursued leaders of the groups after the truce was declared and before the Jerusalem bus bombing.

"I call everybody to work to get out of the spiral of action and reaction and let's learn from our past experiences," Abbas said, calling for a "serious attempt to bring life back to the political track and move away from assassination and destruction."

Palestinian official Saeb Erakat, said Wednesday that the Palestinian leadership remains committed to the road map, which he called a good plan that can break the cycle of violence and revive the peace process. Erakat told CNN that he has been reappointed as the chief Palestinian negotiator, the post he held under Arafat.

Arafat told CNN on Tuesday that Israeli military action has killed the road map to peace and said there is no prospect of groups such as Hamas resuming the cease-fire. (Full story)

Israel has said it was preventing planned terrorist attacks and cited Arafat as the main obstacle to peace.

A senior Israeli official said Wednesday that Israel would disregard a second unilateral cease-fire by militant groups if they declared one, but it could halt attacks on Hamas leaders if they renounce violence. (Full story)

CNN Correspondents Chris Burns, Matthew Chance and Michael Holmes contributed to this report.

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