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Palestinian designate: Future as PM uncertain

Ahmed Qorei talks Sunday to reporters outside his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
Ahmed Qorei talks Sunday to reporters outside his office in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

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RAMALLAH, West Bank (CNN) -- Ahmed Qorei said Sunday that he doesn't know whether he will remain as Palestinian prime minister-designate when his emergency Cabinet disbands in three weeks, sources told CNN.

Qorei made his comments during an impromptu news conference in Ramallah.

Qorei has been entangled in a political power dispute since Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat named him to replace former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas who resigned September 6.

The Palestinian power struggle comes amid heightened Israeli-Palestinian tensions due to a string of Palestinian terrorist attacks on civilians and deadly Israeli strikes on Palestinian extremists that also have killed and wounded Palestinian bystanders.

The central committee of Arafat's political party Fatah decided Sunday to allow the emergency Cabinet -- which was formed last week -- to remain in place another three weeks.

The future of Qorei's eight-member Cabinet has been in doubt since the Palestinian Legislative Council postponed a vote of confidence in the Cabinet on Thursday.

Sources in the PLC said legislators had been discussing whether to approve the emergency Palestinian Cabinet or wait for Qorei to form an expanded Cabinet.

However, the Fatah Central Committee agreed Sunday that Qorei will act as caretaker prime minister for the Cabinet's remaining three weeks of the term. The goal is to create another government during that time.

Last weekend -- following a suicide bombing that killed 19 Israelis in Haifa and an Israeli strike on a suspected terrorist training camp in Syria -- Arafat issued an emergency decree and named Qorei as prime minister.

On Tuesday, Qorei was sworn in along with six members of his eight-member emergency Cabinet.

Nasser Yousef, Qorei's candidate as interior secretary -- who might have led Palestinian security forces in any crackdown on militants, refused to be sworn in, saying he wanted to wait for a vote of confidence from the PLC.

The committee decided Sunday that Yousef would not join the Cabinet, leaving responsibility of West Bank and Gaza security in the hands of the National Security Council, controlled by Arafat.

Arafat and Abbas also struggled over who would lead Palestinian security during Abbas' campaign for the post earlier this year. In a deal brokered by Egyptian negotiators, Abbas eventually was able to appoint Mohammed Dahlan to the position, against Arafat's wishes.

For many months, the Bush administration and the Israeli government have been avoiding dealing with Arafat on the so-called road map to Mideast peace, and eventually called for the appointment of a Palestinian prime minister.

After Abbas' appointment, backers of the road map -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- had urged Abbas to use his influence to stop Palestinian terrorist attacks, a move toward initiating the peace plan.

The road map aims to end three years of Israeli-Palestinian violence by implementing steps on both sides toward establishing an independent Palestinian state by 2005.

CNN Correspondent Fionnuala Sweeney contributed to this report.


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