Arafat's appointment wants U.S. guarantees

Special to World
Tuesday, September 9, 2003

RAMALLAH The prime minister-designate for the Palestinian Authority wants U.S. guarantees that Israel will be pressed to withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip as part of a process to establish a Palestinian state.

Palestinian Legislative Council speaker Ahmed Qurei said he will condition his acceptance of the post of prime minister to a U.S. commitment for the roadmap, an international plan that calls for an interim Palestinian state by the end of the year. Qurei was chosen by the Fatah Central Council to replace outgoing Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned over the weekend.

"I've been nominated but have not accepted yet," Qurei said during a series of meetings with reporters in Ramallah on Monday. "Because before that I want to see what kind of support I will receive from the Americans and the Europeans to change things on the ground for the Palestinians. Without it I am not going to accept it."

Qurei said he wanted an end to the Israeli offensive against Hamas as well as a commitment for withdrawal. The PLC speaker said he expects Washington to pressure Israel to resume withdrawal, which began in July after Palestinian insurgency groups declared a ceasefire. The ceasefire was marred by several major attacks, the bloodiest of which was on Aug. 19 when a Hamas suicide bombing of an Israeli bus in Jerusalem killed 22 people.

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Qurei did not discuss his proposed policy toward Hamas and other insurgency groups. Abbas had carried out a policy of dialogue rather confrontation with such groups as the ruling Fatah movement as well as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"I don't want to see assassinations and demolitions of houses," Qurei said of Israel. "I want to see a real ceasefire. These are my conditions."

Palestinian sources said the State Department, whose representatives met with the PLC speaker on Monday, has been in contact with Qurei regarding his candidacy. The sources said Qurei was told that the Bush administration would cooperate with a Palestinian government under Qurei.

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