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Mahmoud Abbas elected PLO leader

Kaddoumi named Fatah party leader

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Mahmoud Abbas elected chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Mahmoud Abbas
Yasser Arafat
Farouk Kaddoumi

(CNN) -- Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has been elected chief of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as expected, following a unanimous vote by the PLO executive committee, according to Palestinian officials.

Abbas was serving as acting PLO head after Arafat -- the previous PLO chief -- fell ill.

Arafat named Abbas his first prime minister in April 2003 and spent the next four months in a power struggle with the 69-year-old PLO secretary-general before Abbas resigned the following September.

Encouraged by Abbas' appointment, the United States presented the "road map" to peace.

The peace plan -- backed by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia -- called for steps on both sides aimed at ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and establishing an independent Palestinian state.

Abbas, who repeatedly said he did not want to be a figurehead prime minister, was a behind-the-scenes man in the lead-up to the 1993 Oslo accords and worked with many of the discussion groups dealing with other accords.

Abbas called for a halt to attacks on Israel after the second Intifada began in fall 2000.

Meanwhile, hardline PLO political chief Farouk Kaddoumi was named Arafat's successor as Fatah party leader Thursday, according to Palestinian officials.

Kaddoumi, 73, has not lived in the Palestinian territories since the signing of the 1993 Oslo peace accords and is seen by some rejectionists as a possible successor to Arafat. He serves as the Palestinian Liberation Organization's foreign minister.

However, he has very little grassroots support in Gaza or the West Bank because he lives in Tunis, and his role on the ground has largely been taken over by Palestinian Authoritiy Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath, according to a biography provided by the Palestinian press bureau.

Kaddoumi joined Fatah, the Palestinian liberation movement in Cairo, shortly after graduating from economics school in the Egyptian capital in 1958.

He has remained close to Arab countries throughout the 1970s and 1980s and was a hardliner, rejectionist during the 1993 Oslo talks. He refused to return to the Palestinian territories after Arafat signed the deal with Israel.

Earlier this month, Kaddoumi issued harsh warnings "to ambitious Palestinian officials, who are jockeying for power."

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