Egypt brokers deal between Arafat and his new PM

Special to World
Thursday, April 24, 2003

RAMALLAH Egypt has brokered a compromise to resolve a crisis between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and his new prime minister regarding the appointment of an interior minister.

Under the compromise, PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas would appoint himself interior minister. A former PA security chief would be named minister of security.

Hours after the deal was announced, a Palestinian suicide bomber attacked an Israeli railroad station during rush hour on Thursday morning.

At least one Israeli was killed and 14 others were injured in an attack in which Arafat's Fatah movement claimed responsibility.

PA officials said Egyptian security chief Omar Suleiman arrived in Ramallah to work out the compromise between Abbas and Arafat. Arafat wanted incumbent Interior Minister Hani Al Hassan to remain in his post.

"Arafat and brother Abu Mazen have sorted out their differences," PA secretary-general Tayib Abdul Rahim said.

Palestinian officials said Egypt relayed a pledge from the United States that it would work to ease Israeli pressure on Arafat. Washington was said to have pledged to restore Arafat's freedom of movement and guarantee that he would continue to make major decisions in the PA.

Under the deal, Abbas agreed not to appoint former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan as interior minister. Instead, Dahlan would be named minister of security and Abbas would become interior minister in addition to being prime minister.

The dispute over the interior minister concerned both PA security policy as well as who would decide on security issues. Abbas has advocated an end to the Israeli-Palestinian war and tougher efforts against Palestinian insurgency groups.

Palestinian sources said that as interior minister Abbas would be responsible for two security agencies as well as the civil defense command. Another 10 PA security organizations would remain under Arafat's direct control.

PA officials said Abbas and Arafat did not yet agree on the rest of the Cabinet. They said the Palestinian Legislative Council is expected to vote on the new Cabinet next week.

On Thursday, at least one Israeli was killed and 14 others were injured, one of them critically, in a Palestinian suicide bombing in the central city of Kfar Saba. Israeli authorities said the Palestinian blew himself up after a security guard prevented the bomber from entering the station.

The bomber was identified as an 18-year-old resident of the Balata refugee camp outside the West Bank city of Nablus. The Fatah-controlled Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade claimed responsibility for the attack.

Palestinian insurgency groups had criticized the appointment of Abbas as interior minister and said they would resist any PA crackdown. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine also claimed responsibility for what it said was a joint attack with Al Aqsa in Kfar Saba.

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