Abbas Resigns as PLO Chief

Abbas Resigns as PLO ChiefAbbas Resigns as PLO Chief

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stepped down on Saturday as head of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee to force new elections for the top body, an official said.

Wassel Abu Yussef said more than half of the 18-member committee had also stepped down, AFP reported.

"The resignation of the president of the executive committee Mahmud Abbas and more than half of its members has created a legal vacuum, and therefore the Palestine National Council has been asked to meet in one month to elect a new executive committee," Yussef said.

Yussef added, however, that the resignations will take effect only when the PNC meets. The news, which had been widely anticipated since earlier this week, was confirmed by local news agency Ma’an, Al-Arabiya news channel.

The PNC, or Palestinian parliament, has 740 members who live in the Palestinian territories and in the diaspora. It has not met in nearly 20 years. The executive committee is the PLO's highest decision-making body and acts on behalf of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the diaspora, namely in the peace process with Israel.

In 1993, Abbas, then executive committee secretary-general, signed the Oslo autonomy accords on behalf of the Palestinians. Yussef said that before the resignations were announced, the executive committee elected chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as its new secretary-general. That move came after Abbas suspended another key member, Yasser Abed Rabbo, as secretary-general.

It was not immediately clear why Abed Rabbo, a veteran PLO figure, had been sidelined.