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Fattouh Sworn in as Interim Palestinian President


The speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, Rawhi Fattouh, has been sworn in as interim president of the Palestinian Authority. Other senior positions were also quickly filled, with a new Palestinian leadership intent on implementing an orderly transition of power, following Yasser Arafat's death, early Thursday.

Rawhi Fattouh took the oath of office in a ceremony in the legislative council office in the West Bank town, Ramallah.

After taking the oath, Mr. Fattouh praised Yasser Arafat as a martyr of the Palestinian people and vowed to faithfully follow his policies.

The little-known parliament speaker will hold the job for the next 60 days. One of his main tasks will be to organize elections to select a permanent president.

Former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was named to the most powerful position in the political hierarchy, replacing Mr. Arafat as chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Political hardliner Farouk Kaddoumi was named Mr. Arafat's replacement as leader of the mainstream political faction, the Fatah Movement. Incumbent Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is expected to remain responsible for the day-to-day running of government, including security forces.

The quick transition of power is clearly meant to signal continuity and to avoid a power vacuum. But, it may be too soon to tell what the changes in the political leadership will mean to the peace process.

Palestinian legislator Ghassan Khatib told Israel Radio not to expect much.

"There is no political difference between the politics of Arafat and the politics of his successors," he said. "There might be differences in style, differences in approach or tactics, but I think I think the two of them belong to the same school of political thinking and there's no political difference between them. So there is going to be a continuity of the same politicians and negotiating positions."

Israeli leaders are saying the passing of Yasser Arafat marks an important moment. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reacted to news of Mr. Arafat's death saying he hopes his passing can bring about an "historic turning point for the Middle East."