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Arafat welcomes any Qurie reform proposals
Updated: 2004-07-25 11:33

Palestinian President Yasser Arafat said on Saturday he would accept any government changes proposed by his prime minister, as militants demanding anti-corruption reforms kept up a campaign of unrest.

Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie, widely viewed as a moderate voice in the Palestinian Authority, has led calls for reform and submitted his resignation to Arafat last week over the issue.

"I accept anything he presents and I have high confidence in him," Arafat, who has rejected Qurie's resignation, told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Arafat, who dismissed reports of problems between Qurie and himself, said he also welcomed a proposal by Palestinian lawmakers to replace some ministers.

Pressure has mounted on the veteran Palestinian leader since gunmen sparked chaos in Gaza late last week by kidnapping a number of Palestinian officials and foreigners and demanding Arafat reform his Palestinian Authority and security forces.

A power struggle has been brewing in Gaza in anticipation of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw troops and settlers from the occupied territory by the end of 2005.


In the latest unrest, gunmen seized a security building in the Gaza town of Khan Younis, demanding Arafat reinstate dismissed comrades and that he fire his nephew, Moussa Arafat, whom he appointed to a top Gaza security post last week.

The militants later dispersed after announcing a deal under which 11 colleagues who they said had been dismissed from security jobs by Moussa Arafat would be reinstated.

The gunmen were from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed offshoot of Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction.

Hours earlier, unidentified Palestinians torched a two-story police station in the nearby village of al-Zawaida.

Last week, gunbattles erupted in Gaza between militants and forces loyal to Moussa Arafat, wounding 12 Palestinians.

In a sign the Gaza chaos was spreading to the West Bank this week, unidentified gunmen shot a Palestinian legislator who criticized Arafat's performance and gunmen stormed an Interior Ministry office and expelled its director.

In the latest Israeli-Palestinian violence, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead while standing on the roof of his house in the Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, where the Israeli army has been operating for the past few weeks in search of militants.

Palestinian security sources said he was killed when clashes erupted between gunmen and Israeli soldiers.

Israeli military sources said troops had been shot at by Palestinians but did not return fire as they could not identify the gunmen's position.

Sharon designed his Gaza pullout plan because a U.S.-backed peace "road map" has been stalled by the Israeli-Palestinian violence.

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