Security chiefs already battling over Arafat's successor

Monday, November 8, 2004

RAMALLAH In the absence of the dying PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, senior officials have tried to reorganize the 12 security agencies. But these efforts have been jeopardized by infighting between PA security chiefs. Officials said many of the security chiefs have refused to work with former PA Security Minister Mohammed Dahlan, expected to return to a senior position in the Gaza Strip.

The efforts have also been threatened by a dispute between PA leaders and Arafat's wife, Suha. On Monday, Suha, in an interview with the Qatar-based A-Jazeera satellite television, accused PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, PLO Executive Council secretary Mahmoud Abbas and others of seeking to "bury" her husband.

Suha's accusation was meant to stop a visit to Paris by Abbas, Qurei and PA International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath meant for later that day, Middle East Newsline reported.

The PA leaders have sought clarifications on Arafat's condition.

Earlier, Qurei met his security chiefs as well as insurgency leaders in Gaza City. Qurei said the insurgency groups agreed to ensure order in the Palestinian terrorities in wake of Arafat's absence. Arafat has been in Paris since Oct. 29 and on Nov. 4 French intelligence sources said the PA chairman was declared brain-dead by his physicians.

"It was a very important meeting," Qurei said later. "It may be the first of its kind where the government, the legislative council and heads of security forces have met with leaders of national and Islamic movements."

The Palestinian Authority plans to operate a joint security force.

Officials said the Cabinet decided to form a security force that would include elements of most of the 12 PA security agencies. They said the force would be employed to maintain order and protect the regime from insurgents.

"There will not be chaos," PA national security adviser Brig. Gen. Jibril Rajoub said.

Officials said the new joint force would be based in the Gaza Strip and ready for full-scale operations over the next few weeks. They said the force would be commanded by Maj. Gen. Abdul Razik Al Majaydeh, the longtime head of the paramilitary Palestinian National Forces.

The new PA force would conduct patrols with other security agencies in the Gaza Strip. Officials said experimental joint patrols began on Sunday.

The National Security Council decided to launch the joint force as part of an effort to restore order in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Officials said the plan also called for a ban on unlicensed weapons.

Officials said exceptions would be made for certain Palestinian insurgency groups. They said insurgents who battle Israeli troops would be allowed to carry weapons.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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