Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat rejects Prime Minister Qurei’s resignation:
The Palestinian leadership was embroiled in a crisis on Saturday when the prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, submitted his resignation, citing the government’s inability to enforce security, and the Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, rejected his move. While it is not uncommon in turbulent Palestinian politics for senior officials to resign during heated arguments only to back down and resume their posts, Mr. Qurei’s sequence of moves seemed particularly ominous. He twice told Mr. Arafat on Saturday morning that he was indeed resigning, then discussed his resignation with the ministers of the Palestinian Authority here for more than three hours.
He emerged from the five-story ministerial building promising that the cabinet would meet Monday “so we can pave the road to the others,” a suggestion that the entire cabinet would fall and be replaced.
The political drama came in response to a tumultuous day in the Gaza Strip on Friday, when Palestinian militants carried out three kidnappings, abducting four French aid workers and two Palestinian security officials, including the police chief. By Saturday morning, all had been released unharmed. But the kidnappings vividly demonstrated the absence of law and order in Gaza and were also seen as a challenge to Mr. Arafat’s dwindling authority. In brief remarks to reporters, Mr. Qurei said Gaza was in “an unprecedented state of chaos.” Still, it was not clear whether Mr. Qurei was determined to quit, or if it was largely an attempt to convey the gravity of the crisis to Mr. Arafat. If the resignation should stick, Mr. Arafat, under Palestinian law, has five weeks to form a new government, said Kadoura Fares, a cabinet minister.