Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat and the man he has designated to be Prime Minster – Mahmoud Abbas – who is also known as Abu Mazen – agree on a new cabinet – which will clear the way for a new Palestinian government – something the Bush administration has been pushing for. Amy Katz has more.
NABIL SHAATH, PALESTINIAN MINISTER FOR PLANNING AND INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION
“President Arafat has just announced the formation of the cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Abu Mazen.”
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath announcing the agreement Wednesday. A development welcomed hours later in Washington by State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.
RICHARD BOUCHER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN
“We look forward to speedy confirmation by the Palestinian Legislative Council. The United States also looks forward to working with Abu Mazen and with the Israelis as they begin the hard work of ending violence and returning to a political process that can achieve the President’s vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in the peace and security.”
Mr. Arafat and Mr. Abbas had been deadlocked over the issue of who would be the new Palestinian Security Chief. The international community including Britain, Egypt and the Arab League, had been putting pressure on the Palestinians to resolve the dispute.
Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman traveled to Ramallah Wednesday to help the two sides reach an agreement. He led the negotiations in which Mr. Arafat agreed to accept Mohammed Dahlan as Security Chief with Mr. Abbas serving as Interior Minister.
In a speech last June, U.S. President George W. Bush called for new Palestinian leadership – without what he called connections to terrorism and corruption. More recently, Mr. Bush has said he will not publish the so–called roadmap for peace in the Middle East, until a new Palestinian government, with a strong Prime Minister, is sworn in. That could happen soon, once the Palestinian Legislative Council approves the new government, which is expected in the next few days.