JERUSALEM • Mr Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority, may have once worked for the KGB, according to a newly discovered Soviet document.
The possibility, trumpeted by the Israeli media on Wednesday night and just as quickly dismissed by Palestinian officials, emerged from a document in a British archive listing Soviet intelligence agents from 1983.
A reference to Mr Abbas is tantalising but cryptic, just two lines identifying him by the code name "Mole". At the end of his entry are two words: "KGB agent."
Yet the document is as notable for what it does not say. It says nothing, for instance, about how or when he was recruited, what he did for the KGB, whether he was paid or how long he remained an agent.
Palestinian officials scoffed at the report, calling it a brazen effort to undermine him at a time when he is struggling with dissent at home and seeking support abroad.
"There's a clear trend of attempting to damage Abu Mazen (Mr Abbas) by various elements, including Israel," Mr Mohammed al-Madani, a central committee member of Mr Abbas' Fatah party, told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.
"This is another attempt to slander him."
Indeed, Palestinian officials argued that there would have been no need for Mr Abbas to be a Soviet agent because the Palestine Liberation Organisation at the time was openly working with Moscow.
Mr Abbas, they said, led a Palestinian-Soviet friendship foundation, making him the de facto liaison to Moscow.
The document naming Mr Abbas was among thousands of pages of files spirited out of Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union and turned over to British intelligence by a former KGB archivist, Mr Vasily Mitrokhin.
NEW YORK TIMES