Fatah leader wants probe of missing $2b.

Fatah factions tussle ahead of March party conference as young guard at odds with Abbas.

Abbas angry 248.88 CHECK CAPTION (photo credit: AP)
Abbas angry 248.88 CHECK CAPTION
(photo credit: AP)
Estranged Fatah leader Farouk Kaddoumi is demanding an inquiry into the fate of $2b. that allegedly went missing after the death of former Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, sources close to Kaddoumi said over the weekend. Kaddoumi, who is based in Tunis, has long been at loggerheads with PA President Mahmoud Abbas and most of the Fatah leaders in Ramallah. The sources quoted Kaddoumi as saying that at least five top Fatah leaders were responsible for the disappearance of the $2b., but did not name them. Kaddoumi's charges came amid growing turmoil in Fatah, which is witnessing renewed bickering between representatives of its old and new guards. Fatah leaders are expected to meet in Ramallah in the coming days to discuss renewed calls for reforming their party and paving the way for the emergence of young and fresh faces. The meeting was called in response to allegations by young guard Fatah activists that Abbas, who is also the overall leader of Fatah, was blocking attempts to hold internal elections in Fatah. Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership have agreed to hold the much-awaited sixth general conference of Fatah in March as a first step toward holding internal elections. The last Fatah conference was held 18 years ago. Abbas and his predecessor, Yasser Arafat, had stubbornly resisted calls for holding internal elections for Fatah. Their main fear was that the old guard leaders of Fatah would be defeated by young grassroots activists. But in recent days a large group of young guard Fatah representatives have been threatening to declare an "intifada" against the veteran leaders unless they agreed to internal elections immediately. The young Fatah operatives sent a strongly-worded letter to Abbas and the veteran Fatah leadership, accusing them of seeking to retain control over Fatah institutions. The letter said the old timers in Fatah were even prepared to "clone" themselves to stay in power and prevent new and charismatic leaders from emerging. The letter expressed fear that Abbas and his colleagues would in any case try to steal the vote when and if internal elections are held in Fatah. It noted that the old guard Fatah leaders had decided to limit the number of participants at next March's general conference to prevent as many grassroots activists as possible from voting for young guard representatives. The young Fatah operatives are also worried that their older colleagues would exploit the fact that Fatah would not be able to hold free elections in the Gaza Strip as an excuse not to hold elections at all. Most of the criticism has been directed against the 21-member central committee of Fatah, a key decision-making body which is dominated by veteran and elderly officials. "It's time for the old guard in Fatah to go home," said a Fatah activist from Ramallah. "These guys think they have a monopoly over power. Many of them are corrupt and incompetent." In any case, the Central Committee members are hoping that the internal elections would be held before the release of jailed Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti. Many members are worried that Barghouti and his young guard friends in Fatah would pose a serious challenge to the old leadership. Veteran Fatah officials expressed fear that the young activists were planning to overthrow them, even by force. "What's happening in Fatah these days is tantamount to a coup d' etat," said Nabil Shaath, a former Fatah minister living in Cairo. "The young guard is planning to prevent the so-called old guard representatives from running in the internal elections and this is undemocratic." Another top Fatah leader claimed that former Fatah security commander, Muhammad Dahlan, was behind the recent calls for reforming the party and holding internal elections. "Dahlan wants to succeed Mahmoud Abbas as Fatah head and president of the Palestinian Authority," the Fatah leader said. "But Dahlan's attempts to stage a coup against the Fatah leadership won't succeed."