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Palestinian Parliament Approves New Government of Reformers and Technocrats

There was a sigh of relief as lawmakers filed out of the chamber. Days of arguments and political wrangling had come to a successful end, with the confirmation of a new 24-member cabinet under Prime Minister Qureia.

Lawmaker Hanan Ashrawi said the new government might not be perfect, but is a step in the right direction.

"To tell the Palestinian people that we are moving on issues of reform, of separation of powers, of institution building, of rule of law, of democracy. That's what we want," said Ms. Ashrawi.

Lawmakers rejected Prime Minister Qureia's original list of cabinet appointments, saying they want to see new faces, new names, reformers and not those tainted by corruption. The Legislative Council flexed its political muscle twice rejecting the prime minister's proposed list before his slate was put forward in Thursday's final vote.

The cabinet includes 17 newcomers, almost all experts in their field and with advanced university degrees.

The makeup of this new cabinet is seen as a major victory for recently elected President Mahmoud Abbas and his agenda to reform Palestinian political institutions and restart the peace process with the Israelis.

Mohammed Shtayeh served as Mr. Abbas' campaign manager and is now Minister of Housing. He told VOA the vote sends a clear message to the people and the government.

"It is a message of change, it's a message of hope and the load is on the shoulders of every single minister to deliver serious tangible results," said Mr. Shtayeh.

Other newcomers include Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa, previously the Palestinian U.N. representative and a nephew of Yasser Arafat. Former general Nasser Yousef has been appointed interior minister and will be responsible for restructuring the various Palestinian security services.

Finance Minister Salam Fayyad retains his post. He has been on the job for several years and is highly respected by the United States and international donors.

Long-time Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat lost his cabinet position, but will continue in the role as negotiator with the Israelis.

"It's been very tiring, it's been sleepless nights, but this democracy - Palestinian democracy at birth. These are the labor pains of Palestinian democracy and we should get used to it," he said.

The new cabinet is seen as an important step in the Palestinian democratic reform process, but it also likely to serve a relatively short term since parliamentary elections are scheduled for July and could usher in a completely new government.