Arafat declares emergency and names cabinet
 
Greg Myre/NYT
Monday, October 6, 2003
JERUSALEM Facing renewed threats from Israel, the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, declared a state of emergency in Palestinian areas and installed a new government by decree.
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Ahmed Qurei, who has been attempting to form the government for nearly a month, was appointed prime minister and head of the eight-member emergency cabinet.
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The move by Arafat on Sunday came a day after a Palestinian suicide bombing killed 19 people in northern Israel. Although Israel responded with an air attack on what it called a Palestinian terrorist training camp in Syria, the suicide bombing rekindled a debate among Israeli officials about whether to oust Arafat as well.
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"Taking into consideration the difficult situation of the Palestinian people and the necessities imposed by the situation, President Arafat issued a presidential decree by which he declared a state of emergency," Qurei told The Associated Press.
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After a pair of suicide bombings on Sept. 9, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided in principle to remove Arafat. However, such a move is certain to face a storm of international criticism, and Israel has not indicated what action, if any, it may take against the Palestinian leader.
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Still, the latest violence has again created a crisis atmosphere, and Arafat may have felt he could no longer afford the internal wrangling over the new Palestinian government. The discussions have dragged on inconclusively since the previous prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned on Sept. 6.
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Arafat's decree Sunday puts Qurei in office without the need for parliamentary approval. However, it was not clear whether the emergency declaration would have any practical effect beyond the establishment of the new Palestinian cabinet.
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Qurei, the speaker of the Palestinian Parliament, negotiated the first Israeli-Palestinian peace accord in 1993 and has maintained contacts with many senior Israeli politicians.
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Israel says the test for any Palestinian prime minister will be whether he is committed to breaking up violent Palestinian factions. Qurei has not indicated he will do that.
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The new cabinet will keep many of the same figures in key posts. In the most important change, Nasser Yousef, a long-time associate of Arafat, will become interior minister and will be responsible for the security forces.
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However, Arafat has always kept ultimate control of the security forces for himself, and it was not clear how much authority Yousef would have.
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The New York Times

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