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Arafat rejects prime minister's resignation

Meeting with Qorei fails to resolve Palestinian crisis

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, right, and Ahmed Qorei hold an emergency Cabinet meeting Tuesday in Ramallah, West Bank.
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Yasser Arafat faces his most serious internal challenge in years.

The Palestinian prime minister says his resignation stands.

Anti-Arafat protests erupt on an unprecedented scale.

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Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Failing to end a power struggle within the Palestinian Authority, President Yasser Arafat on Tuesday refused to accept the resignation of Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei.

Following an emergency Cabinet meeting, spokesman Nabil Abu Rudaineh said Arafat had formally rejected the resignation and Qorei would remain the prime minister "for the coming period."

But chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat, who attended the meeting, said Qorei would not back down, insisting his resignation -- prompted by Arafat's reluctance to adopt reforms and what Qorei called the state of "chaos and violence" in Gaza -- would not be withdrawn.

Unrest erupted over the weekend when Arafat appointed his cousin Musa Arafat intelligence chief of the West Bank and Gaza.

That appointment set off rounds of protests from Palestinian militants, who said Arafat had replaced one corrupt official with another.

Protesters complained corruption has marked Arafat's leadership during his 10 years at the helm of the Palestinian Authority.

In the wake of the violence, Arafat on Monday asked Abdel Razik al-Majeideh, the man he fired Saturday, to assume the new post of commander of general security for Gaza and the West Bank.

Another minister who was in Tuesday's Cabinet meeting said Qorei explained his reasons for resigning and then left. Aides said Qorei was meeting with his staff about his next move.

The chain of events was kicked off Friday when militants kidnapped Gaza and West Bank police chief Ghazi Jibali, another officer and five French civilians working in charities in Gaza. The militants accused Jibali of corruption and only released him after complaining directly to Arafat about the problems in Gaza.

Qorei was appointed prime minister after Mahmoud Abbas, the first Palestinian prime minister, resigned complaining that Arafat was unwilling to give him the powers he needed.

Violence Sunday in Gaza included the burning of Palestinian intelligence offices in Khan Yunis by Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades -- a military offshoot of Arafat's Fatah movement that Israel and the U.S. State Department consider to be a terrorist organization.

U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has called on Arafat to "take the time to listen" to Qorei and other leaders.

Last week, U.N. Middle East envoy Terje Roed-Larsen warned the Security Council that the Palestinian Authority "is in deep distress and is in real danger of collapse," and he blamed Arafat for not carrying out promised reforms.

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