Palestinian Prime Minister resigns

RAMALLAH - The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has resigned, after a long-running dispute with President Mahmoud Abbas.

Official Palestinian news agency Wafa said the president accepted Mr Fayyad's resignation after they met in person.

But he asked him to remain as caretaker until a new government is formed.

A BBC correspondent says Mr Fayyad's resignation is a major blow for US efforts to restart the long-stalled peace process with Israel.

His resignation is the climax of long-running and increasingly bitter dispute between the prime minister and the president.

They have been at odds over economic policy since Finance Minister Nabil Kassis quit last month, and rumours were rife that Mr Fayyad would step down.

Mr Fayyad accepted Mr Kassis's resignation, but he was subsequently overruled by Mr Abbas, challenging his authority.

Mr Abbas reportedly waited several days before accepting Mr Fayyad's resignation.

Salam Fayyad's recent relationship with the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has not been easy. He had threatened to quit on several previous occasions, reportedly over the direction and handling of economic policy.

He had his international supporters. On a recent trip to the region the new US Secretary of State, John Kerry, held a private meeting with Mr Fayyad as the Americans announced new proposals to boost the Palestinian economy.

But the resignation may be welcomed by those who saw Mr Fayyad as an obstacle to reconciliation between the two main Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Mr Fayyad is a political independent and his removal had been demanded in particular by the Islamist movement, Hamas, which controls Gaza. But replacing a man widely regarded as hard working and determined to tackle entrenched interests will not be easy.

It comes despite recent attempts by US Secretary of State John Kerry to reconcile the two men.

The BBC's Wyre Davies in Jerusalem says Mr Fayyad was seen as a key person in US attempts to restart peace negotiations with Israel.

President Abbas may now struggle to replace him with someone who can match his level of international credibility, our correspondent says.

He is expected to name a new prime minister within days.

Mr Fayyad, 61, has been prime minister of the Palestinian Authority since 2007.

A former International Monetary Fund official, he is widely respected among international organisations and donors.

He is considered a liberal and politically independent, being a member of neither Mr Abbas's Fatah party, nor of rivals Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip.

But in recent months he has proved unpopular with both parties, partly due to his economic policies at a time when the Palestinian Authority is in financial crisis.

Hamas welcomed Mr Fayyad's decision to stand down. Spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said he and his government "worked to protect the Zionist occupation and US interests".

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