Quraya’s comments on Monday came one day after President Yasir Arafat declared a state of emergency in Palestinian territories and approved an eight-member cabinet.

"We are facing an abnormal situation. There is a state of chaos that should be confronted," he told Reuters. But he insisted he would use persuasion, not force, to stop attacks against Israel.

"There won't be a civil war, (I will do it) through dialogue. There won't be martial law".

Resistance criticised

Quraya says he wants a truce with Israel, but the latter has ruled this out until the Palestinian Authority takes action against groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"We will see how this government evolves. We'll see what kind of commitments and statements they make. We'll see what kind of action they take"

Richard Boucher,
US State Department

The Palestinian premier also reiterated his criticism of resistance attacks in Israel.

"This gives the Israeli side a justification to steal land under the pretext of security, kill under the pretext of security and expand settlements under the pretext of security. So there is a state of chaos that cannot be tolerated."

Quraya did not give further details or say when he would hold talks with the Palestinian groups.

US watching

But he will undoubtedly be under Washington’s scrutiny after former Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas resigned owing to frustrations with Israel and the US, and after losing a power struggle with Arafat.

US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher on Monday has said Quraya will be judged by how he deals with what Washington regards as terrorist organisations.

"We will see how this government evolves. We'll see what kind of commitments and statements they make. We'll see what kind of action they take," said Boucher.

Secretary of State Colin Powell echoed that message when he spoke to acting Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath by telephone on Sunday, Boucher said.

Complications

"We are at a moment now where we see the need for action. That's what the secretary stressed. If there's not action to end the terrorism, we can't expect much progress," he added.

But Quraya’s task has been complicated by Israel's attack on Sunday on a refugee camp deep inside Syria, allegedly used by Islamic Jihad, one of the groups he is expected to dismantle.

Compounding recent events is the fact that Palestinian security services have been severely impaired by Israeli invasions, which will make the task of policing any ceasefire more difficult.

At the same time, Israeli army blockades and operations to arrest or kill resistance activists have fuelled resentment among ordinary Palestinians, raising the prospect of further violent incidents.