Thu, Nov 13, 2003 - Page 6 News List

Palestinian Cabinet set to take office

REUTERS , RAMALLAH, WEST BANK

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Quriea's Cabinet was to take office yesterday, clearing the way for him to negotiate a truce with militants and hold talks with Israel on implementing a US-backed peace plan.

Barring any last minute hitches, the 26 Cabinet ministers will be sworn in by President Yasser Arafat after the Palestinian Legislative Council approves the line-up in a session in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

"Once the government gets a confidence vote ... the focus will be on reviving the peace process with Israel," Saeb Erekat, slated to be a Cabinet minister, said. "This government will focus on maintaining the rule of law and ending chaos."

The formation of the new Cabinet will end a political crisis that has embroiled the Palestinian Authority since September, when Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas resigned after failing to wrest powers over security forces from Arafat.

It will enable the Palestinian Authority to start dealing with the implementation of the US-backed "road map" to peace which calls for militant groups to be reined in and disarmed and for Israel to freeze settlement building on occupied territory.

The ultimate aim is a Palestinian state by 2005.

But it is not clear whether Quriea -- who headed an emergency Cabinet established after Abbas resigned -- will be able to take steps toward tackling militant groups involved in a three-year-old Palestinian uprising.

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