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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 16:03 GMT
New Palestinian cabinet approved
Ahmed Qurei and Yasser Arafat on Wednesday
Israel will not negotiate with Yasser Arafat
The Palestinian parliament has approved the new government of Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, ending a two-month crisis.

Mr Qurei unveiled an ambitious vision - calling for a ceasefire with Israel and an international peace conference.

He had spent weeks wrangling with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat over security control, losing in the end.

Peacemakers will hope the approval of the new government will enable them to revive the international peace plan, says the BBC's James Reynolds.

Relief

The meeting was held in Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah, where the Palestinian leader has been confined for nearly two years.

Forty-eight of the members of the Legislative Council present voted to support the Qurei cabinet, 13 opposed it and five abstained.

It was a clear ratification, our correspondent says, which will come as a relief to many legislators who have been deeply frustrated by the arguments and by the power struggles of the last few weeks.

KEY POSTS
Foreign affairs: Nabil Shaath
Interior: Hakam Balawi
Justice: Nahed al-Rayyis
Social affairs: Intisar al-Wazir
Economics: Maher al-Masri
Health: Jawad Tibi
Prisoners affairs: Hisham Abdelrazaq
Top peace negotiator: Saeb Erekat

Mr Arafat succeeded in forcing Mr Qurei to accept his preferred man for interior minister - the top security post - and keeping control of much of the security apparatus in his own hands.

The formation of the government is intended to pave the way for the renewal of high-level talks with Israel, which refuses to deal with Mr Arafat.

In his speech before parliament, Mr Arafat called for dialogue with Israel - and said it had a "right to live in peace and harmony" - in a speech to the parliament.

"The time has come for us to get out of this spiral, this destructive war, that will not bring security to you or us," Mr Arafat said.

But Israel and the United States say the veteran Palestinian leader is, in their words, tainted by his links to terrorists.

"You cannot hold an olive branch in one hand and a ticking bomb in the other," said Dore Gold, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, according to Reuters news agency.

Israel has said it will judge the new cabinet on its actions.

Security portfolio

Mr Qurei reached out to the Israelis in his speech.

"I extend my hand to you with sincerity in order to begin serious and prompt action for a mutual ceasefire to halt the bloodshed and stop violence," he said.

He called on Israel to withdraw from the territories to allow elections, which were due in January 2003.

And he urged Palestinian militant groups - which will not be represented in his government - to end violence.

Israel and the United States are likely to be disappointed that Mr Qurei - like his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas - has failed to wrest control of security from Mr Arafat.

Former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas
Abbas resigned after only a few months in office
Disagreement over the same issue led to the resignation of Mr Abbas - also known as Abu Mazen - in September.

The job has gone to Arafat loyalist Hakam Balawi.

Mr Balawi will have responsibility for police, civil defence and preventative security.

Overall security control will be handed to the Supreme National Security Council, of which both Mr Arafat and Mr Qurei are members - and which Mr Arafat chairs.

The council was set up in September to oversee the security services in the Palestinian territories.




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