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Palestinian PM Nominee Wants Support Before Agreeing to  Accept Post - 2003-09-08

Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Korei says he wants assurances of support from the United States and Europe, and improvements for Palestinians, before he agrees to take on the job of prime minister. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat tapped Mr. Korei to serve as prime minister after political crisis talks in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Mr. Korei said he wants to see what sort of guarantees of support Europe and the United States will give him, and he wants Israel to change its policies of assassinations, checkpoints and house demolitions.

Speaking in his office in Abu Dis, near Jerusalem, Mr. Korei said he does not want to set himself up to fail, an apparent reference to outgoing Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned Saturday. Mr. Abbas lost out in a power struggle with Yasser Arafat over control of the Palestinian security apparatus. But he also blamed Israel for the lack of progress in peace negotiations.

Mr. Abbas had strong support from Israel and the United States, but he was generally not popular among Palestinians, who viewed him as a weak leader, imposed on them from outside. Mr. Korei is a moderate. He has negotiating experience with Israel and was instrumental in working out the Oslo peace accords of 1993.

There has been no official Israeli reaction to Mr. Korei's nomination. But Israel has said that it will not negotiate with Yasser Arafat or any of his hand-picked lieutenants.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday than any new Palestinian prime minister would have to have clear political authority and control of the Palestinian security forces to clamp down on militant groups, such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Speaking on U.S. television, Mr. Powell said he did not think it a good idea to force Yasser Arafat into exile. His comments followed recent calls for Mr. Arafat's expulsion by senior Israeli officials, including Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.