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Palestinian Officials Say Arafat Must Deliver on Promises - 2004-07-28

Top Palestinian officials say Yasser Arafat must live up to promises he has made to reform security forces and rid his administration of corruption. Mr. Arafat agreed to the changes in a meeting with his prime minister to end a political crisis and violent protests against his government. Palestinian Cabinet ministers say the pledges made by Mr. Arafat to his prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, on Tuesday must be translated into deeds.

Among those saying this is Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath.

"When you make decisions they are not sufficient to bring about full credibility. What would make them credible is how they are implemented, which I hope will happen," he said.

Mr. Shaath was responding to a reported promise by Mr. Arafat to give the prime minister responsibility for at least some of the Palestinian security services.

The move follows two weeks of violent protests in the Gaza Strip by Palestinians demanding changes in security personnel.

The protesters also called for an end to what they perceive as rampant corruption within the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian Minister for Negotiations Saeb Erekat says Mr. Arafat also committed himself to tackling this problem.

"President Arafat and the prime minister called upon the attorney general to expedite all the files transferred to his office dealing with corruption,? he said. ?And we need expeditious results immediately and President Arafat and the prime minister have both said no one will be immune."

For his part, Prime Minister Qureia withdrew his resignation at Mr. Arafat's request.

Mr. Qureia says he hopes this marks a new era of openness.

"All issues have been discussed in a very open way and in a very comprehensive way. I hope that this is a new step toward imposing the rule of law in all the country," Mr. Qureia said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, currently on a tour of the Middle East, expressed doubts that Mr. Arafat would carry out his promises to reform the Palestinian Authority and grant Mr. Qureia more power. Mr. Powell says the U.S. administration is looking for deeds, not words, from the Palestinian president.

Egyptian officials, who have been pressing Mr. Arafat to surrender some of his powers and overhaul the security forces, reacted differently. They say they view both Mr. Qureia's decision to withdraw his resignation and Mr. Arafat's promises of reform as positive developments.