On the eve of Palestinian Authority
Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's
visit to Washington
, the PA announced that it has no intention of disarming Hamas
or other armed groups.
Abbas is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Thursday for talks with US President George W. Bush
on the latest developments in the West Bank and Gaza Strip
in the aftermath of the Israeli disengagement. Sources close to Abbas said earlier this week that he would brief Bush on the PA's plan to confiscate "illegal" weapons that are in the hands of various factions and militias, including Hamas.
However, Abbas's national security advisor, Jibril Rajoub
, denied on Tuesday that the PA was planning to disarm Hamas or any other armed group. "We haven't called for disarming anyone," Rajoub said. "There is no decision to collect [illegal] weapons and we haven't taken any steps in this direction."
The weapons of the "resistance" groups, Rajoub added, should remain intact and should not be used on the streets or to terrorize the PA and civilians. He admitted that the PA and its security forces had failed to deal with the state of anarchy that has swept the Gaza Strip after the Israeli withdrawal.
Rajoub's remarks came as 12 Palestinian factions signed a "code of honor" in which they vowed to respect the results of next January's parliamentary elections and refrain from using weapons during the election campaign.
Hamas was the only group that refused to sign onto the understandings because they included a demand to refrain from using mosques as a platform for the election campaign.
The leaders of factions stressed the importance of holding the legislative elections on time and pledged to honor the results and to cooperate with the PA's Central Election Committee. In addition, they said that no weapons would be displayed or used during the pre-election campaign.
In a separate development, the Palestinian Legislative Council agreed on Tuesday to delay a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei
until Abbas returns from the US.
The decision to postpone the vote came at the request of Abbas, who asked in a letter to the legislators that he be given the opportunity to address the council next week.
"The issue of the government is of such importance that it requires a meeting between me and members of the parliament immediately after my return from aboard," Abbas wrote.
Earlier this month the council voted in favor of a calling on Abbas to appoint within two weeks a new cabinet because of its failure to put an end to lawlessness and chaos in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The council also urged Abbas to form a transitional cabinet that would govern until the parliamentary elections.
The call, according to sources in Ramallah
, has sparked off a sharp dispute between Abbas and Qurei, who has made it clear that he has no intention of stepping down. In an attempt to appease Qurei, Abbas announced this week that he won't have enough time to form a new cabinet before registration for the parliamentary elections starts in late November.
Tuesday's session was briefly delayed after hundreds of unemployed workers occupied the council chamber in Gaza City
to demand jobs and money. The protesters accused the PA leadership of failing to address the plight of unemployed workers and demanded financial assistance to pay their electricity and water bills.
In Khan Yunis
, Fatah gunmen kidnapped two Palestinians suspected of "collaboration" with Israel
. The kidnappers announced that they belong to a Fatah-affiliated group calling itself Knights of the Storm. They claimed that the two, whose identities were not revealed, were suspected of assisting Israel in tracking down and killing wanted gunmen in the Gaza Strip.