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PA labor minister offers resignation

Dec. 1, 2011 3:23 A.M. (Updated: Dec. 3, 2011 2:11 A.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- The Palestinian Authority labor minister said Thursday he would resign after coming under fire for profanely criticizing workers in a powerful employees union.

Ahmad Majdalani said he submitted his resignation to President Mahmoud Abbas and his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, and would leave the issue up to them.

The announcement followed outrage over remarks he made to the head of the government employees union, Bassam Zakarneh, at a local radio station last week.

Apparently unaware he was being recorded, Majdalani referred to members of a government workers union using a profane phrase roughly equivalent to "sons of bitches" in English.

Majdalani said Thursday that he should be held responsible as a member of the PLO leadership and secretary-general of the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front.

"After discussing the issue with the leadership committees, I resigned and am still waiting for a response from the president and prime minister," Majdalani said.

Commenting on the initial remarks, Zakarneh said at the time that Majdalani should resign his position, insisting that "there is no place left for him to lead our people."

"Anger is what Palestinians are feeling after hearing disgusting words," he said.

Fayyad's dwindling cabinet

The announcement comes days after PA Minister of Economy Hassan Abu Libdeh said he had suspended all ministerial duties to fight corruption allegations.

Abu Libdeh told Ma'an on Tuesday that he suspended his work in order to have time to defend himself against the accusations, which he said were "pure fabrications."

Attorney general Ahmad al-Maghni says the Supreme Judicial Council has issued a court order against the minister. A hearing is expected to be held on Dec. 12.

Al-Maghni said the minister would face charges of money laundering and abuse of office during his time as chairman of the Palestine Capital Market Authority.

He is the second minister to face graft charges in recent months, with the agriculture minister leaving office in August after receiving a court summons. He also denied wrongdoing.

The Western-backed Fayyad had been hailed in the past for battling widespread corruption in the West Bank, and the loss of the senior cabinet figures after official investigations represents a blow.

Fayyad's problems have been compounded by his inability to name replacement ministers because of so-far fruitless reconciliation talks between Abbas and Hamas, which governs in the Gaza Strip.

Under the terms of an original May accord, the two sides agreed to set up a transitional unity government, bridging the rival political factions in Gaza and the West Bank. However, no progress has been made since then on the makeup of a cabinet.

"Even if there are two ministers left, this government will remain," Yasser Abed Rabbo, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said Monday.
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