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Israeli and Palestinian Developments - 2003-03-10

The Palestinian parliament creates the high-level post of prime minister for the Palestinian authority, as part of reforms supported by international community, aimed at reviving the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Palestinian legislative council voted 64 to three, with four abstentions, to establish the new position, after Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat formally proposed it. The council is giving the prime minister responsibility for internal affairs and the naming of cabinet members, but Mr. Arafat will be able to dismiss him.

Mr. Arafat retains control of security issues, as well as peace negotiations. The Middle East Quartet: the U.S., the European Union, the United Nations, and Russia, working to mediate a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has said it would like the prime minister to be the chief negotiator.

Mr. Arafat nominated Mahmoud Abbas, who is seen as a moderate, to fill the new post. Israel praised the nomination, calling it a welcome move toward the reform of the Palestinian Authority. Mr. Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen, has spoken out against attacks on Israelis.

Meanwhile, on the Gaza strip Monday, residents sifted through what remained of their property, after Israeli troops withdrew from a 10-square-kilometer area. The forces moved in last week, to prevent rockets from being fired at Israeli border towns.