PA official: Qureia tells Arafat he wants to quit as PM
By Arnon Regular, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Queia told
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat on
Thursday he wants to quit his post, Palestinian
"Qureia told Arafat he will not
form the cabinet and doesn't
want to be prime minister
anymore," one of the officials
The officials said Arafat wanted
to dismiss Interior Minister
Nasser Yussef, who would have
security powers, and that
Qureia opposed the move.
Arafat's spokesman said there were "serious
differences" but denied Qureia had resigned.
A short time earlier, the Palestinian
Legislative Council put off a vote on Qureia's
emergency cabinet because of last-minute
political arguments, legislators said.
Parliament members had already convened in the
West Bank city of Ramallah and had been waiting
for an hour for the session to begin when the
announcement of the postponement was made.
"Everyone has his own script and so we feel that
we need more time. We are sorry for troubling
you," the acting parliament speaker, Ibrahim
Ibrahim Abu al-Najar, told legislators.
One official put the postponement down to a
dispute over whether the eight ministers sworn
in Tuesday by Arafat should have emergency
Legislator Hanan Ashrawi said that some
lawmakers wanted it to remain an emergency
cabinet, which would have expired in one month,
while others favored confirming the cabinet
with a vote in the parliament, which would turn
it into a regular cabinet.
Many of the legislators, including those who had
not been included in the ministerial line-up,
voiced objections to its small size.
"This is a constitutional crisis," Ashrawi
The postponement of the cabinet vote,
tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, was
considered an embarrassment for Qureia.
"If this government were presented... today it
would have failed," said Salah Tamari, a Fatah
Qureia had been expected to outline his
government's agenda to the PLC, and legislators
would have been able to question the designated
ministers. Arafat was also scheduled to address
On Wednesday, Qureia presided over the first
meeting of his cabinet, which in principle can
govern for one month. He said that he would
seek parliament approval for the ministers the
following day, turning them into a regular
cabinet, and that he hoped to broaden his
In an unusual move, the parliamentary vote of
confidence was to have taken place two days
after the government was officially sworn. But
two ministers - Interior Minister-designate
Nasser Yussef and Health Minister-designate
Jawad Tibi - refused to attend Tuesday's
swearing-in ceremony; they are expected to take
their oaths after the parliamentary vote.
Qureia said Wednesday that the top item on his
agenda was regaining control of the Palestinian
street. He reiterated, however, that he had no
intention of entering into a frontal conflict
with opposition groups such as Hamas.
Yussef, the minister responsible for some
(although not all) of the PA security services,
met with Qureia for several hours Wednesday,
and Palestinian sources said that the two had
already drafted an initial plan of action for
the agencies under Yussef's control. They added
that Yussef, contrary to his original plan,
intended to focus first on the West Bank and
only later start dealing with Gaza.
Palestinian sources predicted that initially,
most of Yussef's efforts would be devoted to
trying to gain control of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs
Brigades, the military wing of the Fatah party
to which both Arafat and Qureia belong, and
only later would he try to tackle Hamas and
Islamic Jihad. The Al-Aqsa Brigades currently
function as a collection of independent
But Yussef will also face a challenge in trying
to assert control over the various security
services nominally subordinate to him, since
some of them retain allegiance to earlier
commanders. The Preventive Security Service in
Gaza, for instance, is considered loyal to
Yussef's predecessor, Mohammed Dahlan.