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Abu Mazen confirmed as Palestinian prime minister

Sources: Peace 'road map' to be released within days

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start quoteThere is a chance tonight for Palestinians and Israelis.end quote
-- Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat
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Abu Mazen became the first Palestinian prime minister, winning a vote of confidence in his new government. CNN's Kelly Wallace reports (April 30)
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Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi discusses significance of vote on Cabinet.
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Born 1935, village of Safad, seven miles from the Sea of Galilee.

Key player in secret talks leading to 1993 Oslo Accords.

Former PLO ambassador to Moscow.

Met with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice in Washington in 2001.

Formerly Yasser Arafat's chief lieutenant and secretary-general of the PLO's executive committee.
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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Abu Mazen became the first Palestinian prime minister Tuesday, winning a vote of confidence in his new government and opening the door for renewed peace talks with Israel.

In a speech to the Palestinian Legislative Council before the vote, he said his government would support peace and reject terrorism, but warned Israel it must remove settlements from Palestinian territories. The vote was 51 in favor, 18 against, with three abstaining.

Abu Mazen's confirmation paves the way for the unveiling of an international Mideast peace plan, which the United States said would not be released until a prime minister with the power to govern had taken office.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN: "There is a chance tonight for Palestinians and Israelis, for re-engagement in the peace process."

Shortly after Abu Mazen's approval, members of the so-called Mideast Quartet -- made up of the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- met to discuss the release of the "road map," according to sources inside the group.

The sources said the road map will be presented to Israel and the Palestinians within the next 24-36 hours.

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Secretary of State Colin Powell will head to Syria and Lebanon this week to discuss "our efforts to advance Arab-Israeli peace."

Powell will make another trip to the Middle East as soon as next week to discuss the road map.

"Secretary Powell will return to the region on another trip once the newly confirmed Palestinian Cabinet has had the opportunity to begin its work," Boucher said. "That visit will afford the secretary an opportunity to advance the president's vision of two states -- Israel and an independent Palestine -- living side-by-side in peace and security."

The Bush administration has indicated that it would be willing to invite Abu Mazen to the White House -- a privilege it has not offered to Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, who was accused of not doing enough to curb suicide bombings.

Abu Mazen, whose given name is Mahmoud Abbas, was backed by Arafat and Council chairman Ahmed Qorei.

Abu Mazen said he was committed to a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, democratic elections, a strong judicial system, an end to terrorism, and a safe and secure homeland.

Stipulations vital to peace

He also said, however, that Palestinians would not compromise on key issues, including an end to Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.

Addressing previous criticism that Arafat's security apparatus has been lax in its efforts to stop terrorism, Abu Mazen said his government will pay close attention to the professional qualifications of security police.

"Only legitimate arms will be used to protect security and public order and the life of people and property," he said.

Within hours of Mazen's speech, a suicide bomber blew himself up at the door of a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, killing at least four people and wounding about 40 others, authorities said. (Full story)

The White House condemned the bombing, and one senior administration official told CNN that there was "a good chance" the strike was meant as a signal to Abu Mazen.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the White House "condemns this homicide bombing in the strongest terms.

"This attack is obviously designed to harm the peace process. We will press forward with our efforts to get the parties back on the path to peace," Fleischer said.

Israel awaits results

Asked Israel's response to the appointments, Ra'anan Gissin, the spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Israel would wait to see what action Abu Mazen takes.

"What counts is not what has been said," Gissin said. "What counts is the extent to which the prime minister and the new government will execute the necessary reforms and perform the necessary steps to fight terrorism and fight incitement ... on that basis we will make our judgment."

Earlier in the parliamentary session, Arafat backed Abu Mazen and urged lawmakers to support the proposed 24-member Cabinet. (Full story).

"This is the first step for the success of the road map and for the success of the peace negotiations between us and the Israelis," Arafat said.

"Our security departments are ready to carry out their security responsibilities as stated in the agreements, and even the agreements between us and Israel," he said, referring to previous accusations that Arafat's government has not fulfilled its role of stopping terrorism against Israelis.

-- CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

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