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Last month, Fatah district leaders met with Abbas to discuss the future of the movement, which lost parliament elections to Hamas in 2006 and has been unable to reform itself or regain its popularity.
Participants, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of angering Abbas, said they urged him to visit their districts and help boost Fatah support. They noted that even foreign leaders seem to be getting around the West Bank more than Abbas.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and international Mideast envoy Tony Blair have all visited the West Bank town of Jenin, held up as a model of Abbas' law-and-order reforms, while Abbas has not.
"We are dissatisfied with President Abbas for not visiting Jenin," said Mansour al-Saadi, a Fatah spokesman from the area. "People are asking why, and we have no answer."
Abbas needs to be more involved, said Jenin resident Ziyad Shalbak, 48. "We understand that he is conveying our message to the globe, but to do so, he has to meet us first and listen to our voice," Shalbak said.
Abbas is a reticent leader, more comfortable working with associates than facing large crowds. He was a reluctant campaigner during his 2005 presidential run. According to recent polls, he'd defeat a Hamas rival in presidential elections, but jailed uprising leader Marwan Barghouti of Fatah would do better.
Hamad, the Abbas aide, said the president is simply following procedure by allowing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and district governors to do their jobs.
The foreign trips have paid off, he said, even to Sri Lanka, which is not a major player in Mideast politics.
"The president's visit to Sri Lanka was very important," Hamad said. "This is a friendly country, and Abbas' photo is still in the airport of Sri Lanka."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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