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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Arafat urged to let premier quit
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei in Ramallah, 20 July
Qurei reluctantly agreed to stay on
The Palestinian legislature has called on Yasser Arafat to accept Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei's resignation over a security crisis in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Legislative Council approved a resolution saying the cabinet had failed to improve security.

At the weekend Mr Arafat rejected Mr Qurei offer to stand down, after a wave of violent protests by Gaza militants.

In the latest incident, gunmen on Wednesday kidnapped a local official in the West Bank city of Nablus.

Palestinian lawmakers met on Wednesday to discuss a resolution presented by a committee sent to Gaza to look into the recent violence.

The legislative council voted 43-4 to adopt the committee's recommendations - which included the dissolution of Mr Qurei's government and the appointment of a new cabinet.

The report said the current government had "failed to fulfil its responsibility to control the domestic situation and improve the security of its people".

'Cronyism'

The violence began last week, when militants accusing the Palestinian Authority of corruption briefly abducted two Palestinian officials and four French aid workers in Gaza.

At the weekend, militants clashed with security forces in the Gaza Strip.

Pro-Arafat demonstrators in Gaza

They strongly objected to the nomination of Moussa Arafat, a close relative of Mr Arafat, as head of the Palestinian security service.

The protests led Mr Arafat to withdraw the nomination.

On Tuesday, a prominent pro-reform critic of Mr Arafat, former Palestinian cabinet minister Nabil Amr, was shot and wounded by gunmen in Ramallah in the West Bank.

On Wednesday militants kidnapped Fadel al-Shuli, a local official in the West Bank city of Nablus, but later released him.

The dispute over security has precipitated a leadership crisis.

After announcing his resignation at the weekend, Mr Qurei agreed to stay on for the time being after Mr Arafat rejected it.

The speaker of the legislative council, Rawhi Fattuh, called for a national unity government including "the entire Palestinian political spectrum".

AFP news agency quoted cabinet minister Qadoura Fares as saying that Mr Arafat was ultimately responsible for the security crisis.

"President Arafat failed and the Palestinian government failed, the Palestinian political factions failed," he said.




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