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Palestinian Cabinet Resigns to Avoid No-Confidence Vote


The Palestinian cabinet has resigned rather than face a vote of no confidence by parliament, a move that would have been a major embarrassment for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Members of Yasser Arafat's cabinet handed in their resignations Wednesday and the Palestinian leader accepted them.

The action was in response to a threat by lawmakers to hold what would have been effectively a no-confidence vote. They were planning to vote later in the day on whether to approve or reject Mr. Arafat's new cabinet.

Mr. Arafat tried to head off the vote by setting January 20 as the firm date for general elections. He apparently hoped to appease the legislators by making his government a temporary one.

But the lawmakers said they were going ahead with their ballot, which prompted the mass resignations. Mr. Arafat now has two weeks to appoint a new cabinet.

The action by the legislators is the most serious challenge yet to Mr. Arafat's rule by an increasingly rebellious group of lawmakers critical of what they see as his unwillingness to reform his government and crack down on corruption.

Israel and the United States have been pressuring Mr. Arafat to not only reform his administration, but to also step aside. Both countries had hoped that general elections some time down the road would result in a new Palestinian leadership. It's widely thought that the earlier elections are held, the greater Mr. Arafat's chances are of winning the vote.

While many Palestinians are increasingly critical of Mr. Arafat, they are even more critical of what they see as American and Israeli efforts to push him aside and dictate who should lead the Palestinians and how.

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