Palestinian cabinet sworn in

Palestinian President Yasir Arafat has sworn in an emergency cabinet, led by premier Ahmad Quraya.

    Quraya (R) is determined to avoid Palestinian civil strife

    The Palestinian prime minister said on Tuesday the cabinet would try to end "a state of chaos" in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip by pressing resistance groups to halt anti-occupation attacks.

    Israel has threatened to "remove" Arafat unless Palestinian authorities crack down on Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists.

    However, Quraya has said he is determined not to trigger a civil war among Palestinian ranks.

    "We will not be pushed into a civil war ... but we will not be lenient in imposing law and order," he told the Palestinian al-Ayyam newspaper.

    The Palestinian premier said reaching a mutual ceasefire with Israel was a top priority for his new cabinet.

    The pared-down cabinet, one-third the size of its forerunners, does not need parliamentary approval because Arafat declared a state of emergency on Sunday in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Quraya said he would not be "lenient" in imposing law and order in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Quraya was quoted as saying

     he was ready to start "negotiating today" with Israel, expressing readiness to sit down with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
    "I will meet him when it is necessary and useful. I have no veto on dealing with anyone ... there must be preparations for any meeting because (it) should bring about something positive for both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people," he said.

    The outgoing speaker of parliament said he sought a broad dialogue with all strands of Palestinian political life.

    He wanted to "establish an intra-Palestinian dialogue more serious than anytime before in order to reach a common ground on the way of ending the present crisis."  

    End to siege

    Quraya also called for an end to the Israeli army's siege of Arafat in his Ram Allah headquarters.

    "We categorically reject the situation of Mr. Arafat and consider it as an affront to the dignity of our people, and we have to work in order to end this situation which constitutes a blatant Israeli interference in Palestinian affairs," said Quraya.

    The premier also reaffirmed that his government remained committed to the implementation of the "road map".

    But "America and the quartet (the co-sponsors of the roadmap) have also said the roadmap still stands and they are committed to it, but Israel is sabotaging it all the time."
    Quraya will head a nine-member cabinet for a month, but he plans to expand his line-up soon.

    Quraya’s predecessor Mahmud Abbas quit in September after a mere four months in office after failing to secure Palestinian support.



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