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Qurei waiting for Arafat response

By Atul Aneja

MANAMA, JULY 19. The Palestinian Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, today said that he was prepared to take back his resignation only on the basis of written assurances by the Palestinian Authority Chairman, Yasser Arafat.

Soon after attending an emergency Cabinet meeting to defuse the ongoing unrest in Gaza, Mr. Qurei said he had submitted his resignation in writing to the Palestinian President over the state of lawlessness in the territory.

"As yet, I have not received a written response and therefore I consider that the resignation stands," Mr. Qurei told reporters. "However, most of the Ministers in the Cabinet are against this resignation," he added.

Mr. Qurei also called on Mr. Arafat to "appoint the right men to the right posts" in the security branches. Mr. Arafat is expected to approve more appointments as part of an unfinished revamp of the Gaza security organisations.

Faced with serious protests in Gaza on Sunday, Mr. Arafat reinstated the former Palestinian security chief whom he replaced with his cousin on Saturday.

Palestinian officials said that Mr. Arafat phoned Abdel Razek Majaide and asked him to return to the office. Mousa Arafat, Palestinian President's cousin, has been asked to return to his previous appointment of the chief of military intelligence. The Palestinian leader on Saturday had also appointed Saeb al-Ajez as commander of the police in the Gaza Strip in place of Ghazi Jabali, who had been kidnapped last Friday and held by armed activists of the Fatah faction, the nucleus of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO).

Sweeping reforms

In sweeping reforms announced on Saturday, Mr. Arafat had streamlined his sprawling security apparatus under three key branches, coinciding with advocacy by Egypt, and other leading industrialised nations to do so.

Mr. Arafat's decision to appoint his cousin as the overall head of security had been met with serious protests. Rejecting Mr. Mousa Arafat's appointment, armed activists of the Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigades — an organisation that is loosely connected with the Fatah faction — led an attack on the headquarters of military intelligence in the town of Rafah late on Sunday. Earlier, in Khan Yunis, Palestinian gunmen burned down a post manned by security personnel. At least 12 Palestinians were injured in these clashes.

Mr. Mousa Arafat's appointment had also resulted in the submission of a resignation letter by Juma Ghali, commander of the Palestinian navy, and one of Mr. Arafat's close associates.

Describing the violence in Gaza as `dangerous' and counterproductive, Mr. Qurei said a Cabinet committee would travel to the Gaza Strip to try to defuse tensions there. The unrest in Gaza precedes Israel's stated intent to pullout of the Palestinian territory. Fearing a "security vacuum" in Gaza in the event of an Israeli withdrawal, Egypt has offered to assist the Palestinians during the transition, but has insisted on the presence of a more cohesive security structure in the territory.

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