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Korei Agrees to be Palestinian PM; to Present Cabinet on Thursday - 2003-09-10

Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Korei says he will accept the post of prime minister and begin to form a crisis cabinet.

Mr. Korei says Palestinian President Yasser Arafat had urged him to take the job and that he had agreed. He said he would form a small crisis cabinet and would seek its approval Thursday by the Legislative Council.

"Today the president asked me, and urged me to accept to form a government," said Mr. Korei. "I agreed. ... I will take the risk. I will take the responsibility. I will go forward. I hope that I will be able to form an emergency government of crisis."

Mr. Arafat nominated Ahmed Korei, also known as Abu Ala, as prime minister on Sunday, following the resignation a day earlier of Mahmoud Abbas.

The former prime minister lost out in a power struggle with Mr. Arafat over control of the Palestinian security services. Mr. Abbas also blamed Israel for hindering progress in peace negotiations.

Mr. Korei said he would take the job only if he received guarantees of international support and an Israeli agreement to change some of its policies toward the Palestinians, including an end to targeted assassinations of Palestinian militants.

Israel has refused to change its policies.

Meanwhile, Israel bombed the home of a senior Hamas leader, Mahmoud al-Zahar, in Gaza. Mr. Zahar was injured, and his son and bodyguard were killed in the attack. The Israeli air strike followed two Palestinian suicide bombings Tuesday, one at a bus station near Tel Aviv, the other at a crowded café in Jerusalem.

Mr. Korei indicated he took the job of prime minister because of the upsurge in violence.