US welcomes Arafat, Abu Mazen agreement, Hamas warns new government
Washington welcomed on Wednesday an agreement on a Palestinian Cabinet and said it looked forward working with Israel and the Palestinian prime minister-designate on resuming work on Middle East peace.
"We welcome the announcement that the Palestinian Prime Minister-designate Abu Mazen has formed a Cabinet list for submission to the Palestinian Legislative Council," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. "We look forward to speedy confirmation by the Palestinian Legislative Council.
"The United States also looks forward to working with Abu Mazen and with the Israelis as they begin the hard work of ending the violence and returning to a political process that can achieve (U.S. President George W. Bush's) vision of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security," the spokesman told reporters.
Earlier, a senior Palestinian official told Al Bawaba that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his prime minister-designate Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) have reached an agreement on the composition of the new cabinet.
According to the source, Abu Mazen will serve as interior minister and Mohammed Dahlan, the former Gaza security chief whom Arafat did not want in any executive position, will be in charge of security affairs.
Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath later said that he would take over the foreign portfolio. The new cabinet will be comprised of 24 ministers.
Palestinian Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) said he was informed by Abu Mazen and Arafat that the new cabinet has been formed and that the list of ministers is ready for presentation to the parliament.
"We were asked to call for a special session of the Palestinian legislature to vote confidence in the new government," Abu Ala told The Associated Press. "I will call for a session... within a week."
The agreement was reached after the head of Egyptian Intelligence, Omar Suleiman, placed heavy pressure on Arafat to find a solution to the dispute with Abu Mazen over the composition of the new cabinet.
Palestinian sources have confirmed to Al Bawaba earlier in the day that Suleiman was to arrive in Ramallah in a bid to help end the dispute between Arafat and Abu Mazen.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak told Arafat on Tuesday that he was dispatching Suleiman to the West Bank city.
“The next few hours will be decisive for the formation of the government particularly in view of the expected arrival of the Egyptian Head of Intelligence Omar Suleiman in Ramallah to meet Arafat, and perhaps Abu Mazen,” Fatah secretary in the West Bank, Hussein al Sheikh told Al Bawaba Wednesday morning. He added, “I think this will be the last attempt on the part of the Egyptians to bridge the gap between the two. I hope they will succeed although I believe the unresolved issues are going to be very difficult to solve.”
Sheikh also expected Arafat could designate another personality as prime minister Thursday morning, should Suleiman fail to convince Palestinian leader and prime minister elect to agree on a compromise.
Meanwhile, top Hamas leader Abdel Aziz Rantissi on Wednesday warned the new Palestinian cabinet under Abu Mazen not to declare war on his group.
Rantissi said that Hamas would support the new government if it fights the Israeli occupation, but if the government thinks of declaring war on the Jihad warriors, Hamas will fight it.
Rantissi added that this was not an appropriate time to establish a new government. He said efforts to liberate Palestinian lands should continue, despite the international pressure placed on Arafat. (Albawaba.com)
© 2003 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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