Last Updated: Sat Feb 04, 2012 18:52 pm (KSA) 15:52 pm (GMT)

Palestinian premier urged to quit over austerity plan

About 1,000 Palestinians, some calling on premier Salam Fayyad to quit, marched in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Reuters)
About 1,000 Palestinians, some calling on premier Salam Fayyad to quit, marched in the West Bank city of Hebron. (Reuters)

About 1,000 Palestinians, some calling on premier Salam Fayyad to quit, marched in the West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday in protest at his austerity plans.

In the largest protest to date against economic measures announced last month, demonstrators chanted “Salam Fayyad, get out! You are an agent of the United States and Israel.”

Fayyad, a U.S.-educated economist and former International Monetary Fund and World Bank official, is widely respected in the West.

“No to a government that brings us poverty and unemployment,” read signs carried in Saturday’s protest.

Further south, in the city of Bethlehem, a few dozen people staged a similar rally.

In early January, Fayyad announced a number of measures, among them tax hikes and early retirement for civil servants, in a bid to reduce what is forecast as a $1.1 billion (853 million euro) 2012 budget deficit.

After public protests over the plans, he said last Sunday that he would put the tax rise on hold until February 15 and “open a dialogue with all institutions and factions.”

Fayyad’s plans for spending cuts come as he himself faces an uncertain future at the head of the West Bank-based Palestinian government.

Representatives of the rival movements Fatah and Hamas, which controls Gaza, are currently trying to form an interim government of independents -- as called for by a reconciliation deal they signed last year.

Hamas has insisted that the caretaker government, which is supposed to pave the way for elections by May, not be headed by Fayyad, who has said he has no objection to stepping aside to allow the formation of a new government.

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