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Palestinian Political Crisis Continues as New PM Threatens to Quit - 2003-10-10


Palestinian officials are urging their new prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, not to quit, after Palestinian lawmakers refused to endorse his emergency Cabinet. Mr. Qureia is also in dispute with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat over who should be in charge of the security forces.

Palestinian officials said Friday that efforts are under way to try to convince Mr. Qureia to change his mind, after he offered to resign as prime minister.

Mr. Qureia informed Yasser Arafat on Thursday that he no longer wanted to continue as head of the emergency Cabinet established by the Palestinian president earlier this week through a special decree.

Mr. Arafat's decision to bypass the parliament has angered Palestinian lawmakers. The issue came to a head Thursday, when Mr. Arafat ordered that a planned sitting of the parliament be canceled, after it became clear that legislators would not approve the emergency Cabinet.

Following that decision, Mr. Arafat met with Mr. Qureia and demanded that the prime minister remove Nasser Yousef, who had been chosen to become interior minister, from the Cabinet lineup.

Mr. Qureia has told Mr. Arafat he will not continue as prime minister, if Mr. Yousef is not kept in the Cabinet and given responsibility for some branches of the security forces.

Mr. Yousef has refused to be sworn in before the parliament formally approves the Cabinet, a move that Mr. Arafat reportedly sees as an act of disloyalty.

The two men clashed at a meeting of Palestinian officials last month, after Mr. Yousef criticized Mr. Arafat for failing to deliver Palestinians their own independent state.

He and Mr. Arafat are also at odds over the Palestinian president's insistence that several key branches of the security forces remain in Mr. Arafat's control.

The first Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned last month, after he failed to wrest authority over all of the Palestinian security forces from Mr. Arafat.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arafat himself appeared to be in better health Friday, as he attended Muslim prayers at his battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

His improved appearance came after days of seeming pale and haggard, prompting media speculation that he had been seriously ill.

Palestinian officials say he has been suffering from what they described as a stomach virus, and they predicted he would soon make a full recovery.

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