Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Qureia struggles to get Cabinet lineup approved

SLIM CHANCE With many enemies in the ruling Fatah party, the Palestinian prime minister will be forced to step down if he fails to get his new proposal approved

AP AND AFP , RAMALLAH AND WASHINGTON

The Palestinian prime minister yesterday struggled to secure a parliamentary majority for his proposed Cabinet, despite promises that he would replace corruption-tainted politicians with professional appointees.

The prime minister, Ahmed Qureia, would have to step down if he fails to get his Cabinet approved. A vote was set for later yesterday, but could be delayed by a day or two.

Several legislators said they wanted to push Qureia out and would not support any Cabinet he proposes. During years as parliament speaker, Qureia made many enemies among legislators who perceived him as doing the bidding of the late Yasser Arafat, at the expense of the legislature.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, who had largely remained on the sidelines during the political turmoil of the past few days, convened legislators from his ruling Fatah party yesterday, ahead of the vote, and urged them to support Qureia's Cabinet.

Late Tuesday, more than two dozen legislators, including many from Fatah, met in a Ramallah hotel and decided not to back the new list, participants said. Fatah controls more than half the seats in the 85-member parliament, and Qureia needs unanimous support from the party's legislators.

"The general feeling was that this Cabinet will fall," said Cabinet minister and Fatah legislator Jamal Shobaki, who attended the meeting. "Many said they were not going to vote in favor of the Cabinet."

Nabil Amr, another participant from Fatah, also said Qureia, widely known as Abu Ala, had little chance of getting his Cabinet approved.

Earlier this week, Qureia had presented a Cabinet to parliament that included only four new faces, prompting an angry outcry from legislators. After wall-to-wall criticism, he returned with a promise to overhaul his team and appoint many more professionals.

Israel and the US have long demanded reforms to the corruption-plagued Palestinian Authority, and success in the task is one of the key tests for Abbas.

Abbas and Qureia have long been political rivals, but cooperated after Arafat's death in November. In recent weeks, their relationship has cooled.

Outgoing Fatah Cabinet minister Kadoura Fares said that if Qureia fails to win parliament approval, he should not try again. Asked if the prime minister will have to be replaced, Fares said: "There's no other choice."

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