Arafat tells new cabinet election date to be announced soon; Bush, Saudi FM conclude talks

Published June 13th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat on Thursday convened his new Cabinet, appointed in a bid to streamline Palestinian administration. The Cabinet, trimmed from 31 ministers to 21, had its first meeting in Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah. 


One by one, the ministers approached Arafat, seated at the head table, put their hands on a Quran and swore allegiance to the Palestinian Authority. 


For his part, Arafat said that his Palestinian Authority would set within the next few days the date for new presidential and legislative elections.  


"The municipal elections will be held as soon as possible and legislative and presidential elections will be held in either December or January," Arafat said in his address to the new cabinet. "In the next few days we will issue an official order to set the date for these elections," he said at the start of this cabinet session. 


In Washington, deputy State Department spokesman Philip Reeker repeated longstanding US demands that Arafat do more to rein in anti-Israel violence.  


"These announcements that Chairman Arafat made today are positive," he told reporters, referring to the Palestinian leader's comments at the first meeting of his new streamlined cabinet.  


"We'll be watching closely for implementation of those ideas," Reeker said.  


Earlier, U.S. President Bush had a "warm visit" with the Saudi foreign minister, but was not ready to make a declaration on how to establish a Palestinian state, the White House said. The president and Prince Saud al-Faisal met for just 20 minutes in the Oval Office and "exchanged a variety of ideas on how to move forward," White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said. 


The prince, who left the White House without comment to reporters, was returning for an afternoon meeting with Vice President Dick Cheney. "The administration continues to listen, continues to consult," Fleischer stated. 


In his White House meetings, al-Faisal aimed to reinforce the request of several Arab leaders that Bush act quickly to create a state and to compel Israel to give up all of the West Bank, Gaza and part of Jerusalem. Fleischer did not relate the specifics of Bush's discussions with al-Faisal. 


"I'll call it a warm visit, a warm meeting. The president believes that Saudi Arabia is committed to a meaningful and lasting peace process in the Middle East and that includes providing for security for Israel as well as a hopeful and helpful future for the Palestinian people," Fleischer commented. ( 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (

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