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October 26, 2002

Israel to let all MPs attend unveiling of cabinet: Palestinians

The boys are back in town. Will there be a treasurer's report?
RAMALLAH, West Bank (AFP) - Israel has promised to allow all Palestinian MPs to attend a session of parliament where Yasser Arafat is to name his new cabinet, deputy speaker Ibrahim Abul Naja said.

"Israel has agreed to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) session in Ramallah Monday and will let all MPs attend that session, including those from Gaza who will be allowed to reach Ramallah," Abul Naja told AFP.

The PLC press office also issued a statement with Monday's agenda, saying all the MPs would attend thanks to European pressure on the Jewish state.

The MPs are to convene in Arafat's battered Ramallah headquarters and vote on a confidence motion on the new cabinet, it said.

But the spokesman for the European Union (EU) envoy to the region, Miguel Angel Moratinos, said the diplomat had only asked Israel to let Gazan MPs attend the landmark session and "obtained assurances that his request would be favorably reviewed."

No immediate confirmation was available from Israel, which banned 14 Gaza MPs from attending a previous session last month after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said all deputies implicated in "terrorist" activities would be barred from travelling across Israel to Ramallah.

The Palestinian leader's announcement of his new government line-up has been delayed since September 25, first by an Israeli siege of his headquarters here, then by wrangling between factions.

A previous cabinet announced after a reshuffle in June resigned three months later in the face of almost certain defeat in a mandatory confidence vote in parliament.

Arafat has come under enormous domestic and international pressure to reform his Palestinian Authority, which has been mired in allegations of corruption, incompetence, and collusion with militant groups.