Abbas accepts Gaza Fatah leaders' resignations

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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sep 21 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accepted the resignations of Fatah leaders he appointed to reorganise his party in the Gaza Strip after June's Hamas takeover, an Abbas aide said today.

But the aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, played down suggestions the resignations of eight of the 10 members of the committee Abbas set up showed divisions within Fatah, notably over the payment of salaries from the West Bank, and the problems the once dominant faction faces in the Gaza Strip.

The resignations were not in writing, he noted, and he expected them to return.

''They told Abu Mazen they wished to resign and Abu Mazen told them 'If you want to resign then so be it','' the aide said, employing Abbas's widely used familiar form of address.

Abbas appointed the 10-member Fatah committee, under chairman Zakaria al-Agha, to represent the faction in Gaza and reorganise its members after the rout of its forces in June.

A senior Fatah official said eight members of the committee, including al-Agha, submitted their resignations to Abbas earlier this week to protest at the failure of Abbas's new government in the occupied West Bank to pay salaries to more than 10,000 members of Fatah-dominated security forces in the Gaza Strip.

After the Gaza takeover, Abbas dismissed a unity government led by Hamas and established a new administration in the West Bank headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

Israel and major Western powers, which had boycotted the previous, Hamas-led unity government, responded by restoring the flow of funds to Fayyad's administration, allowing him to start paying salaries to most government workers.

Fayyad's cabinet has not offered an explanation as to why the 10,000 Fatah men have not received their salaries. Some officials have suggested that their salaries were being withheld because they failed to defend their compounds against Hamas during the June fighting.

The Abbas aide said today that 3,600 of the 10,000 Fatah officials had now started receiving salaries.

After Hamas's takeover, about 31,500 workers were dropped from the Palestinian Authority's payroll, including 23,500 security personnel, according to figures provided to the International Monetary Fund.

Tensions between Hamas and Fatah have increased sharply in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks following a series of protests and mysterious explosions which Hamas blamed on Fatah loyalists.

REUTERS ARB AS1906

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