Ramallah (West Bank), Oct. 29 (Reuters): Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, under pressure to reform his Palestinian Authority, announced a new Cabinet today and said he was extending an olive branch to Israel.
There were four new faces in the Cabinet, which was reduced from 21 to 19 members, officials in Arafatís headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah said. Arafatís previous Cabinet quit last month to avert a likely no-confidence vote in the reform-minded Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), or parliament, which has criticised his administration. The new Cabinet, if approved by parliament in the coming days, will serve until presidential and legislative elections on January 20, 2003.
In his speech announcing the Cabinet before the legislative council, Arafat said the Palestiniansí rejection of Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip did not mean they objected to Israelís existence.
ďSo here we extend our hand to you in reconciliation and we extend the olive branch to resume the path that we began in Madrid and Oslo,Ē Arafat said, referring to venues for peace talks that led to a historic interim accord with Israel in 1993.