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AP: New Palestinian PM Hopes for Truce (AP) By KARIN LAUB ABU DIS, West Bank 10/06/03 10:05 AM) Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A51062-2003Oct6.html
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ABU DIS, West Bank - Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Monday he hopes to negotiate a quick truce with Israel but will not use force against Palestinian militants under any circumstances - despite U.S. demands for a clampdown on armed groups.
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In setting policy, "I will not listen to the Americans. I will listen to our national rights," Qureia told The Associated Press in an interview, just hours after being installed as the head of an eight- member emergency Cabinet by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
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Qureia offered no formula for getting around the deadlock in implementing the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan, which requires Palestinian security forces to disarm and dismantle militant groups that have killed hundreds of Israelis in shootings and suicide bombings in the past three years of fighting.
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While accepting the plan in principle, Palestinian leaders have said they cannot confront the armed groups for fear of sparking internal fighting. Qureia stuck to this position, saying he has not yet put together an action plan for his security forces - but would in any case not use force against the militants.
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"We will not confront, we will not go for a civil war," he said. "It´s not in our interest. It´s not in the interest of our people, and it´s not in the interest of the peace process."
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Palestinian security forces will try to impose law and order, Qureia said, but was evasive about how he would comply with the road map without dismantling the armed groups. He said he was "not a slave to words," but would adhere to the concepts of the peace plan.
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Qureia was nominated by Arafat a month ago to replace Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned in frustration over Israel´s inaction on the road map - which, for example, calls for a freeze on Jewish settlements - and over his wrangling with Arafat over authority, particularly control over the security services.
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He was appointed by decree from Arafat on Sunday night after weeks of political maneuvering over Cabinet appointments. The decision to install an emergency Cabinet came a day after an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber killed 19 Israelis in a restaurant in the port city of Haifa.
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Following the blast, Arafat was increasingly concerned that Israel might make good on threats to "remove" him, most likely by expelling him. In naming a government quickly, Arafat apparently hoped to block Israeli moves against him. The United States appears willing to give Qureia a chance; were Arafat to be expelled, Qureia would have little choice but to resign.
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Qureia said his objective is the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with east Jerusalem as its capital, by 2005 - the deadline envisioned by the road map.
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"As a Palestinian, this is what I am trying to do. I am not listening to (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, what he wants," he said.
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"We accepted the road map. We will implement it," he said. "But I will not receive instructions, ´be tough or be flexible.´ This is my work. It´s my business.
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Qureia said he wants to hold truce talks quickly. "We are ready, beginning from tomorrow, to sit with them (the Israelis) to discuss reaching a comprehensive cease-fire that will not be temporary," he said.
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Israel has said it would not hold such talks until the Palestinian security forces take some action against militants. Israel´s security chiefs are divided over how much of a clampdown should be required as a prerequisite for truce talks. Some security advisers have proposed settling for symbolic measures for now and not insisting on arrests of militants in the first stage.
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Asked about holding talks with Sharon, Qureia said: "I will meet with him if this is essential and beneficial," adding that such a summit should be well prepared to ensure results.
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The two men have met repeatedly in the past, and Sharon suggested in recent interviews that he can do business with Qureia, whom he described as a cunning politician.
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Qureia has close ties to Arafat and has said that - unlike Abbas - he will not challenge the veteran Palestinian leader. However, Qureia is also seen as a pragmatic man who has maintained friendships with many Israelis, including opposition leader and elder statesman Shimon Peres.
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Qureia, who served as parliament speaker for seven years, logged hundreds of hours negotiating interim peace accords with Israel in the 1990s - including 1993 Oslo agreements. (© 2003 The Associated Press 10/06/03)
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