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October 30, 2002

Arafat's 'reform' Cabinet: more of the same

The more things alter the more they stay the same. Even more so

JERUSALEM — Turning aside calls for a shake-up of his government, Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat named a new Cabinet yesterday that closely resembles his old one.
"I'm proud of the Palestinian democratic process. This is a victory for the Palestinian people," Arafat said. "It is a step toward reform."

At the same time, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was embroiled in a political battle within his ruling coalition that could lead to its dissolution and bring about early elections. But intense maneuvering was taking place in advance of a showdown vote scheduled today on the national budget.

Palestinian legislators, meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, approved the new Cabinet lineup by a 56-18 vote. Dissenters complained that by retaining several ministers accused of corruption, Arafat showed he was not serious about reforms or willing to accept curbs on his own powers