Accessibility links

Breaking News

Palestinian PM Nominee Meets With Arafat, Foreign Envoys

The Palestinian prime minister nominee, Ahmed Korei, has met with President Yasser Arafat and other political leaders and foreign envoys. Mr. Korei insists he will not accept the position without strong guarantees of support from the international community and changes in Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

Talks have been going on in the West Bank city of Ramallah for the past two days. Few details have emerged, but it appears that Mr. Korei has not yet committed himself to accepting the post of prime minister. Mr. Arafat nominated Mr. Korei on Sunday, following the resignation a day earlier of Mahmoud Abbas, who lost out in a power struggle with Mr. Arafat over control of the security services. Mr. Abbas also blamed Israel for impeding progress in peace negotiations.

Mr. Korei has said he does not want to put himself in the same position. He says, to govern, he will need the support of President Arafat, and he has called for Israel to change its policy toward the Palestinian leader.

Mr. Arafat has been confined to his Ramallah compound for most of the past two years, at times surrounded by Israeli troops and out fear that, if he leaves, Israel will not allow him to return. Israel and the United States have sought to isolate the Palestinian leader and refuse to deal with him.

Mr. Korei also called for Israel to change its policies toward Palestinians on the ground, including an end to assassination of militants and demolition of Palestinian houses. And he said Israel must begin to freeze Jewish-settlement activity. He is also demanding guarantees of support from Europe and the United States.

Mr. Korei has proposed a full Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire as a first step to getting the Road Map peace plan back on track.

The European Union has said it will support Mr. Korei, while Washington has simply said it expects the new prime minister to continue political reforms and fight terrorism.

Israeli comments have been mixed. A statement by Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom says Israel will judge any Palestinian prime minister by his actions. The statement goes on to say that the prime minister will have to decide whether he stands with Yasser Arafat or against terrorism.

Israeli radio reports that Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told lawmakers that Israel would not work with anyone taking orders from Yasser Arafat and that the army is preparing for an escalation of violence.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian militants in the West Bank city of Hebron. A Palestinian teenager was reported killed by shrapnel from a tank shell and Israel radio reports that two wanted militants were shot dead.