Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qurei has confirmed he will take over as prime minister following the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas during a crisis in the leadership.
Qurei (right) is an Arafat loyalist
"President Yasser Arafat asked me to be the prime minister
and I have accepted," he told journalists in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Wednesday.
Mr Qurei, who helped negotiate the Oslo peace accords with Israel 10 years ago, was nominated as prime minister at the weekend after the resignation of Mr Abbas.
Mr Abbas, who had only been in the post since April, resigned after failing to wrest greater security powers from the Palestinian leader to tackle Palestinian militants.
"I hope I will be able to form an emergency government - a
six-, seven- or eight-person government," said Mr Qurei, who is widely known as Abu Ala.
Mr Qurei, a leading member of Mr Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction, said he hoped to call the Palestinian Legislative Council into session on Thursday to endorse it.
"Killing the Palestinians and escalating the violence will not
help Israel achieve its security," said Mr Qurei, quoted by the AFP news agency.
"They need to treat Palestinians with respect and sit and talk
with them to find a solution."
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon froze all contacts with the
Palestinian Authority after a devastating Hamas suicide bombing in Jerusalem on 19 August.
Israeli officials have expressed concern about Mr Qurei's close relations with Mr Arafat, whom they accuse of thwarting Mr Abbas' efforts to halt the violence and implement
the US-backed peace plan known as the roadmap.
Peace plan undermined
Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, was the Americans' preferred negotiating partner and his departure left the roadmap hanging in the balance.
Both the US and Israel have said the priority for the new Palestinian prime minister must be to "fight terrorism".
The BBC's Richard Miron says Mr Qurei will face competing pressures from Mr Arafat, Palestinian militants, the Israelis and the Americans.
A White House spokesman said on Wednesday the new Palestinian cabinet "needs to state clearly its opposition to all forms of terrorism, demand that all acts of terrorism cease, and insist that terrorist and military organisations not under the control of the Palestinian Authority be outlawed and dismantled".
Mr Qurei had demanded guarantees that the Americans would pressure Israel to ensure Mr Arafat remained untouched and to implement its commitments under the roadmap.
He has also called for Israel to halt its campaign of targeting Hamas militant leaders - but Israel has vowed to press on with such operations, its resolve hardened by further suicide bombings.