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Arafat names choice for Abbas successor

Arafat wants to nominate parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei, left, as Palestinian prime minister, Palestinian Authority officials tell CNN.
Arafat wants to nominate parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei, left, as Palestinian prime minister, Palestinian Authority officials tell CNN.

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has formally nominated parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei to replace Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian sources told CNN.

The top leadership of Arafat's Fatah faction and the Palestine Liberation Organization backed the move, the sources said.

Abbas, the Palestinian Authority's first prime minister, was in office for about 100 days and resigned Saturday after a power struggle with Arafat. There was no immediate comment from Qorei.

A biography posted on the Palestinian National Authority's Web site said Qorei, also known as Abu Ala, was born in Abu Dis near Jerusalem in 1937 and was an early member of Arafat's Fatah movement.

Qorei was named head of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee's economic department in 1983 and has been a key player in nearly all peace negotiations involving the Palestinians and Israelis since the Madrid Conference in 1991.

He served the Palestinian Authority as minister of economy and trade and minister of industry between 1994 and 1996, when he was elected a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council. He was elected speaker shortly afterward.

The legislative speaker is first in line to succeed the president.

In Washington, the Bush administration reacted cautiously to the news.

"We are following the events very closely and we remain in close contact with the parties in the region," a State Department spokeswoman said.

She refused to comment specifically on Arafat's selection of Qorei because "the situation is still evolving and changing," she said.

Qorei has worked with U.S. and Israeli leaders in the past in pushing forward the peace process.

He was one of three PLO leaders who met secretly with Israeli officials in Norway to work on the Oslo accords, which paved the way for the first interim peace deal between the two sides in 1993.

He was also involved in the peace talks at Camp David in July 2000, and in talks in January 2001.

Abbas submitted his resignation Saturday, less than four months after taking office. Abbas told the Palestinian Legislative Council he did not receive enough support from within his own government to accomplish his goal of reining in militants conducting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

He also blamed Israel for being unwilling to implement its road map commitments and the United States for not exerting "sufficient influence on Israel" to implement the road map. (Full story)

The resignation came amid a power struggle between Abbas and Arafat. Abbas has said he does not want to serve as a figurehead, preferring to be a leader with real clout.

Abbas met with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in May, vowing to meet again in the future. It was the first such high-level meeting in nearly two years. Israel and the United States has said it will not deal with Arafat. (World reaction)

Israeli Cabinet minister Uzi Landau said Sunday Israel had no plans to reveal how it would deal with Arafat, following Abbas' resignation.

"I don't think we have to say every day what we're doing next. Let [Arafat] think what we might do," Landau told CNN. "If we provided in the past any commitment not to harm [Arafat], I think we should withdraw it."

With or without Abbas, Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan Khatib said Israel would have to deal with Arafat.

"Any prime minister is going to be working under the supervision of the leadership of President Arafat because this is what the Palestinian constitution is about," Khatib said.

"Israel, whether dealing with the prime minister or whatever politician, they will be dealing indirectly with policies, negotiated positions, that are determined by the Palestinian leadership which is headed by President Arafat."

Fifteen injured in Gaza, say hospital sources

Israel ordered a full closure of the West Bank and Gaza, forbidding any Palestinians from entering Israel, after the spiritual leader of Hamas, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, threatened to continue the group's jihad against the Jewish state.

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza on Sunday in support of Yassin.

Sunday evening, an Israeli helicopter fired at least one rocket into an apartment building in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, wounding 15 people, hospital sources said.

One of those injured was Abdessalam Abu Musa, a Hamas militant who owned an apartment in the building, the sources said

Yassin's threat followed Israel's failed attempt on his life Saturday in Gaza. He escaped with a minor injury to his hand, after an Israeli missile struck the building where he and other Hamas leaders were meeting.

"Jihad will continue and the resistance will continue until we have victory, or we will be martyrs," said Yassin at a Gaza City mosque after the strike. (Full story)

Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the August 19 bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed at least 21 people. They said their action was in retaliation for the deaths of Hamas and Islamic Jihad operatives, killed by Israeli forces.

Both groups are on the U.S. state Department's list of terrorist organizations.

Ra'anan Gissin, a senior adviser to Sharon, told CNN Radio on Sunday that Israel would continue military actions against militants they deem responsible for terror attacks.

"There's no sanctuary to any one of them as long as they continue to engage in terror activity and as long as they continue to send suicide bombers and fire rockets at Israel," Gissin said, referring to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

The European Union on Saturday declared Hamas' political wing a terrorist organization, a move welcomed by the United States.

Secretary of State Colin Powell told ABC's "This Week" that he was pleased that the EU "realized finally that they could not deal with Hamas any longer, could not separate Hamas militant wing from its political wing."

The declaration clears the way for Europe to freeze the group's assets and place its leaders on a terrorist blacklist.

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