Abbas quits PLO leadership ahead of internal election: Official

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories (AFP) - Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas resigned on Saturday as head of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's executive committee in a bid to force new elections for the top body, an official said.

Wassel Abu Yussef said that more than half of the 18-member committee had also stepped down.

"The resignation of the president of the executive committee Mahmoud Abbas and more than half of its members has created a legal vacuum, and therefore the Palestine National Council has been asked to meet in one month to elect a new executive committee," Yussef told AFP.

The executive committee is the PLO's highest decision-making body and acts on behalf of Palestinians in the occupied territories and the diaspora, namely in the peace process with Israel.

In 1993, Abbas, then executive committee secretary-general, signed the Oslo autonomy accords on behalf of the Palestinians.

Yussef said that before the resignations were announced, the executive committee elected chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as its secretary-general.

That move came after Abbas suspended another key member, Yasser Abed Rabbo, as secretary-general.

It was not immediately clear why Abed Rabbo, a veteran PLO figure, had been sidelined.