Arafat uses siege boost to delay reforms

04 October 2002

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat emerged from the 10-day siege of his battered Ramallah headquarters on 29 September buoyed by signs of increased popular support for his stewardship of the national cause. Palestinian political figures pressing for reforms have expressed fears that Arafat will seek to exploit this support to delay making changes to the Palestinian Authority (PA) decision-making structures.

Under pressure from the Palestinian legislature, Arafat had been scheduled to announce a new cabinet line-up by the end of September, including the creation of a new position of prime minister. However, the central committee of Arafat's Fatah movement decided on 1 October to drop the idea of appointing a prime minister until the formation of a Palestinian state. This has been taken as a signal that the changes to the cabinet will not be as radical as the legislative council had been demanding.

The lifting of the siege on his Muqata headquarters was not the only coup enjoyed by Arafat. The Palestinian leader has also warmly welcomed the 1 October statement by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, to the effect that the international community is just as concerned to see Israel implement UN resolutions as it is Iraq. 'We call on Blair to pressure Israel to return without delay to the negotiating table increase pressure on Israel to immediately implement UN Security Council resolution 1,435 by withdrawing its forces from all the occupied Palestinian territories,' a PA statement said.

Israeli minister without portfolio Danny Naveh said his government was troubled by the parallel drawn by Blair. 'First of all, the UN will not dictate to us,' he said. 'But if you ask me if I am disturbed by the British prime minister's remark, I am disturbed.'

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