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Arafat installs emergency government
( 2003-10-06 15:24) (Agencies)

Yasser Arafat installed a small Cabinet by decree, with Ahmed Qureia as prime minister, and declared a state of emergency in the Palestinian areas in an apparent attempt to block Israeli action against him following a suicide bombing.

Qureia and his eight-member emergency Cabinet are to be sworn in Tuesday and will serve for a limited term of up to two months. Qureia, tapped by Arafat for the job last month, had initially planned to present a larger government to parliament for approval later in the week.

Israel threatened last month to "remove" Arafat, without setting a time, and there were new demands for his expulsion after Saturday's attack by Islamic Jihad. Nineteen Israelis were killed in a crowded beachfront restaurant in the northern port city of Haifa.

Aides to the Palestinian leader have said he was clearly concerned about possible Israeli action after the bombing. There was no direct move against Arafat after the suicide bombing; instead, Israel bombed a target inside Syria that it claimed was an Islamic Jihad training base, striking deep inside its neighbor's territory Sunday for the first time in three decades.

In installing an emergency Cabinet, Arafat makes it more difficult for Israel to move against him. The United States appears willing to give Qureia a chance, and any Israeli action against Arafat could force Qureia's immediate resignation and cause chaos in Palestinian areas.

"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 ... and formed an emergency government headed by me," Qureia told The Associated Press on Sunday.

Qureia also said he would try to implement the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan and "work ... to get out of this situation of chaos in the Palestinian territories."

Qureia has not outlined his security plan, though he is not expected to dismantle militant groups, as required by the road map. Palestinian Authority officials fear a confrontation with Hamas and Islamic Jihad will trigger internal fighting.

Qureia said three portfolios were assigned: Nabil Shaath as foreign minister, Salam Fayad as finance minister and Nasser Yousef as interior minister. Qureia listed the other five members of the Cabinet as Saeb Erekat, the current chief negotiator; Nabil Abul Hummus, the current education minister; Jamal Shobaki, the current minister of local affairs; and two legislators from Arafat's Fatah (news - web sites) movement, Abdel Rahman Hamad and Jawad Tibi.

There was no immediate Israeli comment because of Yom Kippur, the Jewish holiday that ends at sundown Monday.

Earlier in the day, Arafat spoke by video conference with security chiefs in the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian official said on condition of anonymity. Details of the conversation were not released.

The Palestinian official said security forces have taken some action against militants in recent days, seizing more than 400 pounds of explosives in the West Bank town of Jericho and arresting five would-be attackers.

The claim could not immediately be verified independently, and the Israeli military said it could not comment until the end of Yom Kippur.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops fired from a tank-mounted machine gun at a group of Palestinians crossing a road closed by the military. A 26-year-old man was killed and three people were wounded, witnesses and hospital officials said.

The road had been closed earlier in the day as part of travel restrictions imposed after the suicide bombing. Troops sealed off parts of Gaza, cutting the 20-mile long coastal strip into four sections, to prevent the movement of militants and weapons, army officials said.

In the West Bank town of Jenin, troops demolished the family home of the Islamic Jihad bomber, 27-year-old Hanadi Jaradat. The army routinely destroys homes of Palestinian militants to deter others from carrying out attacks in Israel.

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