Palestinian PM presents resignation, Arafat refuses
Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia submitted his resignation Saturday to Yasser Arafat, plunging the Palestinian government into crisis, but Arafat rejected it, a top official said.
The resignation came as Qureia and Arafat discussed a shake-up of security forces during a rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Gaza Strip. Six people, including the national police chief and four French charity workers, were briefly kidnapped in Gaza a day earlier.
Saeb Erakat, a Palestinian Cabinet minister, said Qureia told members of the legislative council that he submitted his resignation to Arafat, but that the Palestinian leader refused to accept it.
Qureia, also known as Abu Ala, was appointed in September 2003, when the first prime minister of the Palestinian government, Mahmoud Abbas, quit after just four months on the job.
Arafat's rejection of Qureia's resignation left his status uncertain, and it was unclear whether Qureia would continue to lead the government.
The prime minister, one of the main negotiators of the 1993 Oslo peace agreement with Israel that created the Palestinian Authority, proved incapable of asserting his authority over the official security services or over the militant groups which led attacks against Israel in the Palestinian territories and in Israel itself.
Unlike his predecessor, Qureia never met Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon or other top Israeli cabinet officials.
Early Saturday, Arafat's National Security Council declared a state of emergency and sent troops to protect government buildings and officials from militant factions.
There have been several shake-ups of the Palestinian security services since the outbreak of Israeli-Palestinian fighting nearly four years ago, but none lived up to the international community's expectations for reform.
However, the latest realignment appeared to be more sweeping than any previous attempt.
The Palestinian government declared an emergency after Police Chief Ghazi Jabali and another senior security officer were seized by militants Friday and later released.
Four French charity workers also were abducted and held for several hours, as militants made an apparent show of force before the announced withdrawal of Israeli forces and thousands of settlers from the Gaza Strip.
"This is a true disaster," Qureia said Saturday outside his offices before meeting Arafat. "This is a level of chaos that we have never seen before."
Egypt and the quartet of international peacemakers — the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union — have been pressing Arafat to bring rival security factions under unified control. More than a dozen security branches now operate in the areas, often fighting each other.
An Egyptian plan specifically called for the streamlining of the services into three branches in Gaza and the West Bank.
Arafat aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said the security forces would be the national police, public security forces and intelligence.
Mousa Arafat, who has been with his first cousin since the early days of the Palestinian national struggle in 1965, replaced Abdel Razzak Al-Majaideh as national security chief. Al-Majaideh was considered ineffectual.
The Palestinian leader also appointed Saeb al-Ajez as the new police chief for the West Bank and Gaza, replacing Jabali who has been widely accused of corruption.
The chief of intelligence was not immediately named.