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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 07:02 GMT 08:02 UK
UK urges Palestinian reform
Mike O'Brien (left) in talks with Yasser Arafat
O'Brien hinted that Arafat should remain president
A British Foreign Office Minister has called on the Palestinians to bring forward new leaders for the international community to deal with as well as Yasser Arafat.

Mike O'Brien was speaking shortly after talks with Palestinian leader Mr Arafat in Ramallah, where he urged him to "exercise his authority to end the suicide bombings".

I told him we were talking to him because he must exercise his authority to end the suicide bombings

Mike O'Brien
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has said his country will no longer deal with Mr Arafat - something still distinct from the UK's latest stance.

As Mr O'Brien was visiting, Mr Arafat shook up his much-criticised security services, sacking top officials.

Speaking after his talks with Mr Arafat, Mr O'Brien said it was essential to reform Palestinian institutions and create "circumstances in which other representatives can come forward with whom we can deal, as well as President Arafat."

He added that the international community was looking forward to a "two-state solution" for Israel and the Palestinians.

Palestinian shake-up

Mr Arafat has dismissed both his chief of police, General Ghazi Jibali, and his head of civil defence, Mahmud Abu Marzuk.

The announcement was made on Palestinian radio.

Jibril Rajoub
Rajoub: Seen by some as rival to Arafat
Reports say he is also sacking the head of the West Bank preventive security service, Colonel Jibril Rajoub.

The Palestinian Public Works Minister, Azzam al Ahmed, told the French news agency AFP that he had already been replaced by the former governor of Jenin, Zuher Manafrah.

Clonel Rajoub has been tipped in the past as a possible successor to Mr Arafat.

Fight against terrorism

Mr O'Brien said he had told Mr Arafat that "he must exercise his authority to end the suicide bombings" and the Palestinian leader had promised to "do all he could".

"I emphasised that we expected the Palestinian Authority to act decisively if it is to convince the international community that it is fully committed to the fight against terrorism," said Mr O'Brien.

The British envoy was also held talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

Ahead of the visit, the British Government said it would be a "familiarisation" exercise for Mr O'Brien who has just been appointed to his new job.

A spokesman defended the decision to meet Mr Arafat:

"We have to be able to negotiate with somebody who represents the views of the Palestinian people and who can deliver and it's no secret that, as the prime minister has said on several occasions, we believe that Yasser Arafat is somebody who has let down the Palestinian people."

Visit welcomed

The move to send Mr O'Brien was welcomed in the UK by Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell who said it was an "entirely sensible decision".

"Mike O'Brien should take every opportunity to emphasise that nothing less than wholesale condemnation of suicide bombings will suffice, and that every step must be taken by the Palestinian Authority to thwart the bombers," Mr Campbell said.

He added that Mr Arafat was "still the leader of the Palestinian people".

"No reasonable prospect for peace in the Middle East exists without his engagement.

See also:

01 Jul 02 | Middle East
29 Jun 02 | Middle East
28 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | UK Politics
26 Jun 02 | Middle East
25 Mar 02 | Middle East

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