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Palestinian PM withdraws resignation

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Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat agreed Tuesday to turn over internal security to Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei, Palestinian officials said.

In turn, Qorei told a news conference he had agreed to withdraw his resignation, apparently ending a leadership standoff that had lasted more than a week.

A key aide to Qorei said Arafat had agreed to adhere to the "basic law," the Palestinian constitution, which calls for internal security to be under the Palestinian interior minister answering to the prime minister.

Asked about the transfer of powers, Qorei said, "We are not competing for powers."

But a Qorei aide said Arafat had given in and added, "Very soon you will see actions on the ground."

A Cabinet reshuffle was discussed, Qorei said, but no decisions were made.

As recently as last weekend, Arafat was insisting there was no crisis, but charges of corruption and Qorei's repeated refusal to withdraw his resignation had posed some of the strongest challenges to his leadership that Arafat has ever faced.

Although he had repeatedly rejected Qorei's resignation, Arafat said last weekend, "The prime minister has the full right to propose anything he wants to and whatever is suitable for him. I will support whatever he decides. I highly and fully trust him."

But even as Arafat spoke, Palestinians burned down a police station in Zwaida, near Gaza City, and another group briefly seized the governor's office in Khan Younis.

The violent protests took off a week ago after Arafat announced a series of security reforms, including appointing his cousin Musa Arafat as head of security.

Many Palestinians said he was replacing "corruption with more corruption," and leaders of his Fatah party in southern Gaza resigned in protest.

Protests turned violent, leading to shootouts with security and the destruction of buildings.

A short time after Arafat made the shifts, Qorei submitted his resignation. He had argued with Arafat that as prime minister he needed power over security forces to help combat widespread lawlessness and poverty sweeping Gaza. Arafat had refused.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan last week called the situation "a serious crisis" and said Arafat should listen to fellow Palestinian leaders and regional leaders in establishing reforms.

Qorei has held his post since September 2003, when the first prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned amid a similar dispute with Arafat.

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