CAIRO, March 8: The man tapped by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to become the first Palestinian prime minister has said he would reject the job if it proved to be purely ceremonial, a newspaper said on Saturday.

The report preceded a meeting of the PLO’s Central Council which approved the leadership’s decision to give in to international pressure to appoint a prime minister and its choice of Mahmud Abbas for the post.

Mahmoud Abbas, who is secretary general of the PLO executive committee, told the daily in an interview he would not accept what he called a “formal” job.

After Arafat offered him the job on Thursday, Abbas indicated he would only accept the position if his authority were significant enough.

Abbas, commonly known by his nomme de guerre of Abu Mazen, told the daily he would delay his final decision until after the “tasks and prerogatives” of the new post are clarified by the PLO’s central council and by the Palestinian parliament.

“We must wait until the principle of (creating) a prime ministerial post is approved by (the council and the parliament) and know what the tasks and prerogatives are,” he was quoted as saying.

Saying he was waiting to see whether the job was “real or formal,” he made it clear he would refuse the offer it “does not come with prerogatives.”

Creation of the post and a delineation of its duties are to be hammered out by the PLO central committee and the Palestinian Legislative Council (parliament) between Saturday and Wednesday.

Palestinian officials told Asharq al-Awsat Arafat would “issue Tuesday or Wednesday a presidential decree appointing Abu Mazen” as prime minister.

Abbas does not enjoy wide support among Palestinians but is a seasoned politician, co-founder with Arafat of the PLO’s mainstream Fatah movement and a prominent figure in the agreement of the 1993 Oslo partial peace accords.—AFP

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