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Palestinian PM-nominee Seeks US EU Guarantees

Palestinian PM-nominee Seeks US EU Guarantees for Peacemaking

Powell: US Will Negotiate with Premier of the Palestinian People

President Yasser Arafat has officially nominated the Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Ahmad Qurei (Abu Alaa) as the new Palestine National Authority (PNA) prime minister to succeed the caretaker premier Mahmud Abbas, who resigned on Thursday. Qurei has reportedly demanded US and EU guarantees of support for peacemaking, and has yet to confirm his acceptance of the post after sorting out his political agenda with the Palestinian leadership.

“President Arafat has assigned Abu Alaa to form the new Palestinian government, following a consensus on his nomination by the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation (PLO) and the central committee of Fatah movement,” Arafat’s media adviser Nabil Abu Rudeinah announced Sunday.

Arafat chaired on Sunday separate meetings of the executive and the central committees of PLO and Fatah respectively in his battered headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

Caretaker PM Abbas did not attend either meeting.

However, Qurei, 65, has yet to confirm his acceptance. He is yet to agree on his government’s political agenda with the Palestinian leadership.

“In the upcoming few days Abu Alaa will be discussing his government’s political agenda with the Palestinian leadership and other institutions” before confirming his acceptance of the nomination, PNA Minister of Cabinet Affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo said Sunday.

Qurei himself said Monday he first wanted American and European guarantees of support for peacemaking before accepting the post. He also added that he wanted to see whether peace with Israel was possible before accepting the post as Palestinian prime minister.

"I am not prime minister as yet ... I want to see the Americans - what kind of guarantee ... they will (give)," he told the Reuters news agency. "I want to see Europe, what kind of guarantees and support ... they will [give]. I'm not ready for failure. I want to see whether peace is possible or not."

Qurei has long been a leading Fatah member. Seen as a moderate and a pragmatist, he was a key player in the secret talks that led to the 1993 Oslo accords, which led to Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza. He also led the Palestinians in negotiations with Israel in the following years.

Caretaker PM Abbas, who quit on Saturday, justified his resignation mainly by not receiving enough support from the United States and Israel for his peacemaking efforts. The Israeli government of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon severed all contacts with the Abbas cabinet on August 21.

Abbas told a closed-door session of the PLC, reading from a prepared statement, that Israel had not carried out its obligations under the “roadmap” peace plan, the United States had not enforced Israeli compliance and his detractors at home had constantly undermined him with “harsh and dangerous” incitement.

Abbas on Sunday declared his resignation was final.

The European Union, which helped draft the “roadmap” along with Russia, the US and the United Nations, made clear it would accept Qurei. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said: “We are going to do our utmost to...ensure that the road map is implemented.”

Meanwhile, the US Administration stressed that whoever holds the post of Palestinian premier should be empowered enough to control the security forces.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said any Palestinian prime minister must have clear control over security forces and use them to crack down on groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

"That person has to have political authority and the determination to go after terrorism," Powell said on ABC’s “This Week.”

The “roadmap” plan requires the Palestinians to dismantle armed groups.

"If there is going to be a process to peace, if the road map is going to continue to unfold — and I believe it can continue to unfold — then there has to be a concerted effort against Hamas and other terrorist organizations and terror activity," he said.

He urged the PLC to empower the upcoming premier with enough authority to do that.

"I hope that as the Palestinian Legislative Council considers this issue over the next several days, they will give the new prime minister the political power he needs, the political authority he needs and the resources that he needs to go after Hamas," Powell told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Similarly, White House national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, speaking on US television urged the PNA to "get an empowered prime minister and let him work."

Neither Powell nor Rice, making the rounds of the Sunday talk shows, suggested who should replace Abbas.

"We believe that in the final analysis, the Palestinian people, through their leaders, will choose to empower a Palestinian prime minister who can fight terror, who can unify the security services and who can act on behalf of the Palestinian people," Rice said on CNN’s “Late Edition.”

However, Powell added that Abbas’ resignation would not lead the United States to negotiate with President Arafat, whom Washington long has sought to sideline.

"No. Period. He is not an interlocutor for peace, he demonstrated that over the years," Powell said.

"We will negotiate with the prime minister of the Palestinian people," he added.

"Whoever that person is, and it remains to be determined, if that person does not make a solid commitment to follow the roadmap, go after terrorism and stop these terrorist attacks, then it's not clear that we'll be able to move forward," he said, referring to US-sponsored “roadmap” peace plan.

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