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New Palestinian PM announces weapons ban

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Wednesday, April 30, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has announced a ban on weapons and said its new government would focus on security issues.

The ban was announced by new Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas addressed the Palestinian Legislative Council on Tuesday and presented the policy of his new proposed government.

Hours later, the Cabinet was approved by the PLC in a 50-18 vote, Middle East Newsline reported. "The government will concentrate on the question of security," Abbas said. "The termination of armed chaos, which directly threatens the security of the citizen, will be one of our fundamental missions. There is no place for weapons except in the hands of the government. There is only one authority."



Abbas did not say how his proposed government would ban weapons. He did not specifically prohibit Palestinian militias in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and officials said Abbas ordered negotiations with the insurgency groups for a ceasefire in the war against Israel.

"The government will focus its greatest attention on the professional qualifications of members of security departments and will not be lenient towards any violation by security force members," Abbas said. Abbas has appointed himself interior minister with responsibility for two of the PA's 13 security agencies. Former PA security chief Mohammed Dahlan was appointed minister of security.

Over the past year, the PA has announced several bans on weapons by those other than security forces. The announcements have been ignored by Palestinian insurgency groups, including that of the ruling Fatah movement headed by PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat continues to control 11 PA security agencies as well as the Fatah militia.

The new Cabinet does not contain a staunch opponent of Arafat and ally of Abbas. Gen. Nasser Yusef, who served as police commander in the Gaza Strip in the mid-1990s, had been designated by Abbas to become a minister with unspecified responsibilities over security agencies. Officials said Arafat opposed Yusef's appointment.

Palestinian insurgency groups dismissed Abbas's call for an end to violence. Hamas and Islamic Jihad said they would not disarm until Israel ends what they termed was the occupation of Palestinian lands.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Moshe Ya'alon said the military has prepared a redeployment plan for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He said the military plans to relocate troops once the PA is deemed to have launched what he termed an effective battle against terrorism.

In his address to the PLC, Abbas vowed to crack down on official corruption. He said he would not allow his ministers or their aides to exploit their authority.

"The government will not allow anyone to misuse his position," Abbas said. "The government will not hesitate to bring corrupt people to court based on fair mechanisms."

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