Israel eases Quraya cabinet debut

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmad Quraya and his enlarged cabinet are to be sworn in as Israel moves to ease pressure on the occupied territories ahead of the ceremony.

    Palestinian premier unveils his policies on Wednesday

    Quraya is expected to unveil the main elements of his government's programme during a speech in Ram Allah to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) or parliament after an address by President Yasir Arafat on Wednesday.


    Parliamentary officials have said deputies are likely to first gather at Arafat's headquarters, the Muqataa, and then convene at the PLC building for Quraya's speech and a subsequent debate.


    Arafat is effectively confined to the Muqataa by the Israeli occupation army.


    The session, set to begin at 11:00 am (0900 GMT), is scheduled to last just for the day. However, some deputies are predicting that it could run over until Thursday, with proceedings being halted early because of the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.




    Hasan Khraisha, a Fatah MP predicted that Quraya would flesh

    out his plans to

    institute a mutual ceasefire with Israel and his commitment to the internationally drafted "road map" peace plan.


    Cabinet is due to be approved by
    parliament on Wednesday

    "We expect that Quraya will talk to us on two issues - the road map and commitments of the PA (Palestinian Authority) to peace, and something on the internal situation" at a time of rising poverty and unemployment levels.


    "We also expect that there will be a discussion of the Geneva document," he added in reference to an alternative peace blueprint drawn up by leading Palestinian figures and leftwing Israelis.


    Quraya had been the head of an eight-man emergency cabinet whose one-month term of office expired on 4 November.


    The Palestinian Authority was left in limbo after the cabinet's mandate expired without agreement between Arafat and Quraya over the choice of a new interior minister.


    However, Quraya on Friday accepted Arafat's choice for the key post. The premier's preferred candidate, General Nasir Yusuf, was dropped to make way for close Arafat associate Hakam Balaawi. 



    Relieving pressure


    Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pushed to ease pressure on the occupied territories to avoid a collapse of the Palestinian Authority on the eve of the

    investiture of the new government in Ram Allah.


    "If we do not ease the closure we risk affecting our friends in the Palestinian camp"

    Unnamed Israeli official

    During closed-door meeting with deputies from his right-wing Likud party, Sharon said Israel must "ease the closure or risk provoking the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, which would force us to take administrative responsibility for 3.7 million



    "If we do not ease the closure, we risk affecting our friends in the Palestinian camp, who tell us they are taking measures to protect the Israeli population, but also to allow Palestinians to live," an Israeli official close to him added.


    "Israel does not want to face accusations from abroad that it is provoking the collapse of the Palestinian Authority", he said, adding that "the chaos would play into the hands of (veteran leader Yasir) Arafat".



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