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Arafat reshuffles security officials

Arafat: Under pressure  

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat late Tuesday dismissed his West Bank security chief and the longtime Palestinian police chief in a reshuffling of top Palestinian security officials.

An aide to Jibril Rajoub, the West Bank preventive security chief, said Rajoub was dismissed from the position and replaced by Zuhair Manasra, the governor of Jenin.

It was not immediately clear if Rajoub -- one of the most powerful Palestinian figures in the West Bank -- was dismissed from the government completely or if he would given another position. Palestinian officials were not available for comment.

Arafat has faced increasing pressure from the United States and Israel to do more to reform his security service and to get them to crackdown on terrorists in order to stem an increasing number of attacks against Israeli civilians. More than 220 Israelis were killed in terrorist attacks in the first six months of 2002.

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Palestinians have said their security network has been crushed by the Israeli military, making it tough to round up the suspects Israel wants.

Rajoub's aide said his departure was just one of several changes.

Gen. Ghazi Jabali, the long-time Palestinian police chief, was replaced by his deputy, and Ribhi Arafat was selected to head the district coordination office between Palestinian and Israeli security services, the aide said. The previous head of that office, Omar Ashour, has now become the head of the civil defense.

Rajoub is a well-respected Palestinian leader who holds clout among security officials on both sides. In February, the daily Ha'aretz said Israeli Defense Benjamin Ben-Eliezer viewed Rajoub as a potential alternative to Arafat.

Shortly before word of the dismissals spread, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told CNN that representatives of the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union had completed a meeting in London on Palestinian security. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State William Burns was the key U.S. official in the meeting.

Powell said the meeting was to "help the Palestinian people and the Palestinian leaders begin to put in place a more effective security structure to keep the violence under control."

Powell also said that the United States believes Arafat could be facing a challenge from within the Palestinian Authority.

"There are these fissures within the Palestinian leadership that suggest maybe people are starting to realize where are we getting with the current leadership that we have, and perhaps we should consider new leaders," Powell said.

State Department spokeswoman Lynn Cassel added, "There was broad agreement on the importance of real reform of the Palestinian political structure, the economy, legal system, security apparatus and the creation of an environment in which democracy and a civil society can grow and flourish."




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