Abbas, Qurei dispute new PA cabinet (JERUSALEM POST) By KHALED ABU TOAMEH 02/02/05)
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A sharp dispute between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas
and PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei is preventing the formation of a
new cabinet, senior PA officials in Ramallah disclosed Tuesday.
According to the officials, Abbas and Qurei have been at loggerheads
since Abbas announced two weeks ago his intention to replace at least
Qurei is reportedly opposed to such a move, saying the changes should
not affect more than three ministers. He is also opposed to a major
reshuffle because a new cabinet will in any event be established
after next July´s parliamentary elections.
Abbas and Qurei met twice over the past two weeks in an attempt to
patch up their differences, but to no avail, said one official.
The two are expected to meet again later this week in yet another
attempt to reach an agreement on the make-up of the new cabinet.
"It´s a serious crisis," the official said. "It looks more like a
power struggle between the two men. We hope we won´t return to the
same power struggle that we had under [Yasser] Arafat."
The post of prime minister was created in 2003 under pressure from
the United States and the international community with the declared
aim of cutting Arafat´s powers and forcing him to cede control over
the security forces and finances of the PA.
Abbas, who served as the first prime minister, was forced to resign
after only four months in office, mainly because Arafat refused to
share powers with him. Now that he has replaced Arafat, Abbas also
does not want to serve as a powerless figurehead and insists that he
alone has the right to run the affairs of the PA.
Abbas´s argument is that as an elected leader he is entitled to carry
out real changes in all fields in accordance with his new political
and economic agenda. As such, he wants to replace the ministers of
security, foreign affairs, information, interior, economy and social
welfare, as well as the cabinet secretary.
Abbas is seeking to appoint Maj.-Gen. Nasser Youssef as interior
minister in charge of all the security forces. Youssef will replace
Interior Minister Hakam Balawi, who was appointed by Arafat and is
closely associated with Qurei.
He also wants to replace Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath with Nasser al-
Kidwa, the PLO envoy to the United Nations and a nephew of Arafat.
Abbas is also seeking to bring into the cabinet three of his
loyalists – Muhammad Dahlan, who will hold a key security position,
Nabil Amr, slated to become information minister, and Muhammad
Shtayyeh, who will replace Maher al-Masri as minister of economy.
Sources close to Qurei say he is opposed to the appointment of
Youssef as interior minister and insists on keeping Balawi in his
job. Qurei, the sources add, does not want a major cabinet reshuffle
because this would require a vote of confidence in the Palestinian
The majority of PLC members have long been demanding a major
reshuffle, threatening to topple Qurei´s cabinet if he does not fire
several ministers whose names have been linked to various financial
"Qurei knows that if he goes to the Palestinian Legislative Council
now, he will lose because there is a majority in support of a no-
confidence motion against his cabinet," a Palestinian legislator in
Gaza City said.
At the weekly meeting of the cabinet on Tuesday, Qurei told his
ministers that he is opposed to the formation of a new cabinet at
"The present cabinet is capable of functioning, with minor changes,
until the parliamentary elections in July," he said.
Qurei added that his cabinet will emphasize reconstructing the PA
security forces and implementing comprehensive reforms.
He said the cabinet discussed at length allegations that some
Palestinian companies and top PA officials had been importing cheap
cement from Egypt for the construction of the security fence in the
The case, known as the "cement scandal," was revealed by a
Palestinian parliamentary commission last year, prompting many
Palestinians to call for an immediate investigation. At least two
ministers have already been implicated in the case, as well as a
number of senior officials who were close to Arafat.
Qurei said the PA general prosecutor, who launched a criminal
investigation into the scandal, presented his findings to the cabinet
earlier this week. He said the full report would be made available to
the public soon and that there will be no immunity for those
implicated. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/02/05)
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