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Arafat meets with nominee for Palestinian PM job

Qorei: 'I want to change the situation on the ground'

Palestinian legislative speaker Ahmed Qorei leaves Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday.
Palestinian legislative speaker Ahmed Qorei leaves Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank town of Ramallah on Monday.

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Palestinian PM nominee Ahmad Qorei indicates he wants to avoid the pitfalls that befell his predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas
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CNN's Chris Burns on Palestinian parliamentary speaker Ahmed Qorei's nomination.
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Mahmoud Abbas' resignation puts pressure on Yasser Arafat.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian legislative speaker Ahmed Qorei on Monday met with Yasser Arafat to discuss his nomination to become the new prime minister, Palestinian security sources said.

Few details emerged after the meeting at the Ramallah compound of Arafat, president of the Palestinian Authority.

Mahmoud Abbas resigned over the weekend as prime minister less than four months after taking office.

Earlier Monday, Qorei said he would accept the nomination only if he receives guarantees of support from Europe and the United States.

"I'm looking from the Americans, from the Europeans, from the quartet, for a real support -- practical, not by words. I want to change the situation on the ground for the Palestinian people."

The so-called "quartet" -- consisting of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- supported the road map for Middle East peace, a plan that has been shattered by Israeli and Palestinian violence.

In submitting his resignation, Abbas told the Palestinian Legislative Council he had not received enough support from his own government to accomplish his goal of reining in militants conducting terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians.

He also said Israel was unwilling to implement its road map commitments and said the United States has not exerted "sufficient influence on Israel" to implement the road map. (Full story)

Qorei made universal support a necessary part of him taking on the role of Palestinian prime minister.

"This is my condition from all the parties who are concerned about the peace process -- the Israelis in particular, the United States, the Palestinian Authority," he said. "If I will have support from all the parties in this regard, it's possible. If not, I don't want to go to failure."

Abbas had secured a cease-fire from militant groups earlier this summer, but the lull in violence ended August 19 with a bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed at least 21 people. Hamas and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the deaths of their operatives who had been killed by Israeli forces.

"I want to see a real cease-fire from both sides within a commitment to stop all kinds of killings of the Palestinians or killing of the Israelis," Qorei said.

On Sunday, Hamas' spiritual leader declared that the group's jihad against Israel would continue.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin's threat followed Israel's failed attempt on his life Saturday in Gaza. Yassin escaped with a minor injury to his hand after an Israeli jet dropped a bomb on a building where he and other Hamas leaders were meeting.

Hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza on Sunday to demonstrate support for Yassin. Following his threat, Israel ordered the West Bank and Gaza closed and barred Palestinians from entering Israel.

U.S. 'following the events very closely'

The Bush administration, which had backed the "road map" for Middle East peace and had supported Abbas as prime minister, reacted cautiously Sunday to the news about Qorei.

"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 on Qorei specifically because, she said, "the situation is still evolving."

Mahmoud Abbas leaves his office shortly after submitting his resignation in Ramallah on Saturday.
Mahmoud Abbas leaves his office shortly after submitting his resignation in Ramallah on Saturday.

Prior to Abbas' resignation, he and Arafat had been locked in a power struggle over control of Palestinian security forces. In his resignation letter, Abbas blamed "Israel's unwillingness to implement its road map commitments" and a lack of sufficient support from the United States and the international community.

Other problems, he said, were internal: a lack of support for the policies of his government, "harsh and dangerous incitement against the government" and "unjustified accusations" that he and his government were trying to wrest all power from the Palestinian Authority.

Arafat named Abbas the caretaker of the government until a new government is sworn in.

World leaders said Abbas' resignation was a setback for peace efforts. (World reaction)

Despite the weekend events, U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that President Bush's "road map is still there as a viable way" to peace. But, she said, eventually the Palestinian people must empower a prime minister "who can fight terror, who can unify the security services, and who can act on behalf of the Palestinian people."

"Yasser Arafat has been part of the problem for a long time," Rice told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has refused to deal directly with Arafat, calling him an obstacle to peace. Abbas met with Sharon in May and said they would meet again in the future. It was the first such high-level meeting in nearly two years.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, speaking on ABC's "This Week," said that expelling Arafat from the region, as some Israeli officials have suggested, is not the right choice.

"What purpose would it serve?" he asked. "To give him a broader stage to operate from outside of the region?"

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

Israel: Palestinian gunman killed in shootout

Israeli forces early Monday shot and killed an armed Palestinian near the Erez crossing that goes from Gaza into Israel, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said.

According to the IDF, a Palestinian gunman approached a restricted area near the crossing and opened fire. The military spokesman said the gunman was killed in an exchange of fire.

An Israeli military uniform, grenades and an AK-47 with ammunition were found on the body of the Palestinian, according to the IDF.

The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a group linked to Arafat's Fatah movement, identified the man was one of its fighters -- 20-year-old Ahmad Halawa.

In southern Gaza on Sunday, 15 people were wounded Sunday when an Israeli helicopter fired at least one rocket into an apartment building in Khan Yunis, Palestinian hospital sources said.

One of those wounded in the evening strike, Abdessalam Abu Musa, is a Hamas militant and owned an apartment in the building, the sources said. He is known by Palestinians to be part of the Qassam rocket unit of Hamas.

The rockets are a security concern for Israelis because of their long range, estimated to be about 9 kilometers (5.5 miles).

After the Israeli rocket hit the building, there were two subsequent explosions inside.

-- CNN Correspondents Jerrold Kessel, Chris Burns and CNN Radio Correspondent Ninette Sosa contributed to this report.


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