The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Arafat wins in cabinet deal

Ramallah, Nov. 9 (Reuters): Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie today announced a deal to form a new government that would keep security powers key to a US-backed peace plan under President Yasser Arafat’s thumb.

Qurie said his candidate for interior minister, pro-reform General Nasser Yousef, would not hold a cabinet post.

Instead, Arafat loyalist Hakam Balawi would get the job and oversee police, civil defence and the preventive security service.

The five other Palestinian security services would be overseen by a national council chaired by Arafat, accused by Israel and the US of fomenting violence in a three-year-old uprising — an allegation he denies.

Qurie said the Palestinian parliament would convene on Wednesday for a confidence vote in the government, ending a month-long impasse with Arafat on its formation.

Israel, which had hoped to sideline Arafat, 74, an icon of Palestinian nationalism, was unimpressed by the deal and division of security powers.

“This is probably a sad day for democracy and democratic reforms in the Palestinian Authority because we still see that the cartel of terror headed by Arafat is the body that calls the shots when it comes to security,” said Raanan Gissin, a spokesperson for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Qurie and Sharon have expressed willingness to discuss reviving the US-backed “road map” to peace once the Palestinian legislature approves the cabinet.

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