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Last Updated: Saturday, 24 July, 2004, 17:22 GMT 18:22 UK
Arafat denies he is facing crisis
Masked Palestinian militants of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades occupy the balconies of the Khan Yunis governorate building
Masked militants barricaded themselves in a governor's office
Yasser Arafat has insisted there is no power struggle among the Palestinian leadership, in the wake of another armed protest against him.

He said there was "no problem" between him and Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, who wants more say over security services.

Mr Arafat spoke hours after masked guerrillas briefly took over a Palestinian Authority building in Gaza.

It was the latest protest demanding reforms in the security services, which opponents say are rife with corruption.

Power struggle

The BBC's Barbara Plett says Gaza has been shaken by clashes between rival sections of the security forces staffed by Mr Arafat's Fatah movement.

No, no, there is no crisis
Yasser Arafat, Palestinian leader
The protests are widely seen as a power struggle ahead of Israel's promised pullout from Gaza next year, our correspondent says, but she adds that Mr Arafat has yet to lose a faction fight in more than 40 years at the top.

"No, no, there is no crisis," Mr Arafat said after meeting Arab diplomats at his offices in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

The protests began earlier this month when Mr Arafat nominated a close relative, Moussa Arafat, as head of the Palestinian security services. Opponents demanded Mr Arafat reform the security services and eradicate cronyism.

The unrest prompted Prime Minister Qurei to submit his resignation. But this was rejected by Mr Arafat and Mr Qurei agreed to stay on for the time being.

Mr Arafat also withdrew the controversial nomination but the militants say this is still not enough, as Moussa Arafat continues to head the general security branch in the Gaza Strip.

Offices stormed

Militants from al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade - linked to Fatah - torched a police station in Zwaida, near Gaza City on Saturday.

Map showing location of Khan Yunis and Gaza City
In Khan Yunis, dozens of masked men stormed the office of the regional governor before dawn, demanding that Mr Arafat fire Moussa Arafat.

The group left peacefully at about noon (0900 GMT) after receiving assurances that comrades who had been dismissed from jobs with the security forces by Moussa Arafat would be reinstated.

Meanwhile the Israeli army said it destroyed or damaged a number of abandoned buildings in the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza as part of a hunt to find tunnels used for smuggling weapons to Palestinian militant groups.

Palestinians say six houses were demolished, leaving 50 people homeless.


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The BBC's Barbara Plett
"Gaza has been shaken by clashes between rival sections of the Palestinian security forces"



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