Monday, December 22, 2008

Palestinians unhappy with Abbas' frequent absences

RAMALLAH, West Bank (AP) — In four years as Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas has traveled to the far corners of the Earth, but never set foot in the West Bank's largest city, Hebron.

Ordinary Palestinians have long grumbled about their leader's travels abroad, despite ongoing crises at home. Those include trips to France and several Arab countries immediately after the Islamic militant group Hamas routed forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah party to take over the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Abbas aides say he's helping the Palestinian cause by rallying international support. They say the day-to-day government is the prime minister's job and Abbas, who was in Chechnya on Sunday, is continuing a pattern set by his predecessor, frequent flier Yasser Arafat.

"The world is still supporting us ... simply because of our efforts, the efforts of President Abbas and before that the late president, Yasser Arafat," said Abbas aide Nimr Hamad.

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