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Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 10:18 GMT
Sharon 'to meet Palestinian PM'
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Sharon has refused to deal with Yasser Arafat
Israel says Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his Palestinian counterpart Ahmed Qurei will meet within 10 days.

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the summit would be preceded by lower-level meetings between the two sides.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat confirmed preparations were under way.

Mr Qurei's cabinet was sworn in on Wednesday after he and the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, called for an end to three years of violence.

The previous Palestinian Government - led by Mahmoud Abbas, who is also known as Abu Mazen - collapsed two months ago, after a power struggle with Mr Arafat over control of the Palestinian security forces.

A similar struggle preceded the naming of the new administration by Mr Qurei.

Security portfolio

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

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

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

Foreign affairs: Nabil Shaath
Interior: Hakam Balawi
Finance: Salam Fayad
Social affairs: Intisar al-Wazir
Economics: Maher al-Masri
Health: Jawad Tibi
Prisoners affairs: Hisham Abdelrazaq
Top negotiator: Saeb Erekat

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.

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.


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.

Israel and the Palestinians



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