PENPIX-Influential figures in new leading Fatah body

Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:39am EDT

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Aug 11 (Reuters) - Fatah, the long-dominant Palestinian political movement, elected a new Central Committee at its first congress in 20 years. Here are details of some key figures:

MAHMOUD ABBAS

President of the Palestinian Authority, which was created after the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Abbas is Fatah leader and chairs its Central Committee. He succeeded Yasser Arafat, who died in 2004 after four decades in charge. Abbas was confirmed unopposed in his party post by popular acclaim on Saturday. Now 74, Abu Mazen, as he is also known, has struggled to match Arafat's charisma and saw his authority eroded by Fatah's defeats to Islamist Hamas at the ballot box and in battle in Gaza. He pushed for a congress to renew Fatah's leadership and analysts say the influx of younger men may bolster Abbas as he seeks to resume U.S.-sponsored peace talks with Israel and patch up the schism with Hamas.



MARWAN BARGHOUTHI

Jailed for life for murder in Israel in 2004, Barghouthi defended his right to fight Israel during the Intifada, or uprising, that broke out in 2000. Seen before his arrest as a leading contender to succeed Arafat, few discount the chance Israel could yet free him in a political deal. At 50, and newly elected to the Central Committee, Barghouthi is still a possible successor to Abbas, who has no vice-president or obvious heir.



MOHAMMAD DAHLAN

The Gaza-born former head of the Preventive Security Service (PSS) in the Gaza Strip and former security adviser to Abbas, Dahlan, 48, has been hated by Hamas since he led Arafat's crackdown on the Islamists in 1996. Dahlan also served as minister of internal security under Abbas. Some also saw his role in beefing up Abbas's U.S.-backed forces in 2007 as the trigger for Hamas, then running the elected Palestinian government, to seize Gaza in fighting with Dahlan's men. Defeat earned Dahlan criticism inside Fatah, but he is now elected to the Central Committee and is seen as a potential contender for outright leadership.



JIBRIL RAJOUB

Former PSS security chief in the West Bank and fluent in Hebrew, he had close ties with the U.S. and Israeli intelligence services before he resigned in 2002. Rajoub has always been seen as a rival to Dahlan but close to Abbas. Rajoub, 56, would be seen to back a strong Abbas grip on the Fatah Central Committee.



TAWFIQ TIRAWI

Headed the general intelligence service in the West Bank until late 2008 and a close Abbas loyalist, Tirawi, in his 60s, won Hamas's enmity for his role to crackdown on the movement in the West Bank after Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in June 2007. Also newly elected to the Central Committee.



SAEB EREKAT

A confidant of Arafat and now of Abbas, Erekat enjoyed the post of chief negotiator with Israel for years and is seen by many as the trustee of the peace agreements. Erekat, 54, would be a moderate voice now he is on the leading Fatah body.



NASER AL-KIDWA

A well-known face as the former long-time Palestinian representative to the United Nations, and a former foreign minister, Kidwa, a nephew of Arafat, 50, is a moderate and pragmatic figure also now elected to the Cental Committee.

AHMED QUREI

Prime minister under Abbas in 2005, Ahmed Qurie, known as Abu Ala, has lately had strained relations with the president, who had effectively sidelined him as chief negotiator with Israel. Qurie narrowly failed to make the top 18 in the ballot for the Central Committee, according to initial results, which means he should lose a seat he has held for decades. Qurie was among Arafat's earliest allies in the 1960s and a leading negotiator on the Oslo accords with Israel, reached in 1993.



OTHERS

The key Palestinian political figures outside Fatah include Hamas leaders KHALED MESHAAL, based in Damascus, and ISMAIL HANIYEH, prime minister in 2006-07 who now runs the Hamas administration in Gaza. Abbas's prime minister, SALAM FAYYAD, is a former IMF official and political independent who enjoys the confidence of Washington. He is at odds with many in Fatah.



(Writing by Nidal al-Mughrabi and Alastair Macdonald)

(For blogs and links on Israeli politics and other Israeli and Palestinian news, go to blogs.reuters.com/axismundi)

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