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Palestinian PM-Designate Forms Small Emergency Cabinet - 2003-10-02

Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Ahmed Qureia has formed what he describes as a small emergency Cabinet, which will be presented soon for parliamentary approval. The decision overturns his plans for an expanded ministry, following infighting over his choices for Cabinet positions.

Mr. Qureia says he intends to seek an initial government of only 11 Cabinet ministers, as he prepares to take up the post of prime minister. He has asked the Palestinian Legislative Council to convene early next week to approve the new line-up.

Mr. Qureia has refused to disclose his nominations, but he said the new Cabinet would care for the needs of all Palestinians.

He originally tried to assemble a Cabinet of 23 ministers, but this plan reportedly broke down following divisions within the Palestinian leadership, after the proposed list was leaked to the media.

Mr. Qureia was asked to form a new Cabinet after Mahmoud Abbas resigned as prime minister last month. Mr. Abbas bowed out, after losing a power struggle with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat for control of the security forces.

Palestinian officials say Mr. Qureia wants to start with a small Cabinet, which will be directed to reform the Palestinian Authority.

The officials say Mr. Qureia also wants to negotiate a possible cease-fire with Israel and to move forward with the international road map to peace plan.

The plan, which is backed by the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations, calls for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has not ruled out working with Mr. Qureia, but he says this will depend on whether the Palestinian Authority helps stop Palestinian terror attacks.

Mr. Sharon is also calling for the Palestinian Authority to disarm and dismantle Palestinian militia groups.