Muhammed Muheisen  /  AP
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat briefs the media Tuesday after attending the Palestinian Islamic Christians Conference at his compound in Ramallah.
updated 8/10/2004 10:32:03 PM ET 2004-08-11T02:32:03

Yasser Arafat is evading many of the promises of reform he made during a desperate effort to stave off a leadership crisis in the Palestinian Authority, disappointed legislators said Tuesday.

Arafat showed no sign of relinquishing absolute control over Palestinian security forces, they said after twice meeting with the Palestinian Authority president. Giving up some control is a key demand from not only Palestinian reformers but also the United States, Egypt and Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces moved into the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis early Wednesday, wounding at least 12 people in a missile strike, Palestinian officials said.

Israeli military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that an operation “against the terrorist infrastructure” was in progress, and a helicopter fired a missile at an open area to deter gunmen.

In the West Bank city of Nablus on Tuesday, Israeli soldiers shot and killed a Palestinian who was throwing rocks at troops, Palestinians said. The military said the man was armed. Palestinians said 26 people were wounded in the clash.

Also, Israeli security officials said Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has withdrawn his agreement to let armed Palestinian police patrol West Bank cities and towns. Cabinet hard-liners had criticized the change, arguing police might become involved in attacks on Israelis.

The arming of Palestinian police was requested by Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, who seeks to show he can restore order even though Arafat refuses to grant him significant power. Last month, Qureia briefly resigned, but was brought back with promises from Arafat of more authority.

Symbol of cause
Arafat’s rule has long troubled foreign critics, and corruption and disarray in his Palestinian Authority are seen as stumbling blocks to peace. However, Palestinians note Arafat is the most recognizable symbol of their national cause, and even his harshest critics at home concede there’s no one else with his stature in the Palestinian leadership.

In a nod to detractors, officials said Arafat offered Cabinet posts to two critics in Gaza, Mohammed Dahlan and Samir Mashrawi

Arafat has ruled by creating competing security forces and playing them off against each other, while paying the salaries of tens of thousands of security officers and public workers. He personally controls finances, appointments and most aspects of domestic and foreign policy. However, four years of conflict with Israel, with thousands of casualties and economic ruin, have brought increased criticism of the 75-year-old leader.

In recent weeks, Palestinian reformers have gone public with their criticism, breaking with past practice of grumbling only in private. Parliament set up a 14-member committee to investigate the government crisis and report on reform.

Legislators met twice with Arafat in recent days, demanding that he put his reform promises in writing, but they said Tuesday that he remained evasive. He gave the lawmakers a three-page letter, but his only concession was a guarantee that the prime minister could appoint Cabinet ministers, participants said.

“President Arafat’s letter was not encouraging,” said lawmaker Jamal Shati.

Basic Law
The legislators want Arafat to abide by the Basic Law, which spells out the separation of powers, sign anti-corruption legislation and commit to reforming the security services.

Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the legislative committee, said “there are issues that President Arafat agreed to, others he is still reluctant to accept.”

For example, Arafat told legislators he was committed to the Basic Law. When asked whether he would cede control of several government institutions, such as the Palestinian Monetary Fund, he said no.

Arafat also avoided a clear answer on security reform, participants said.

Abbas Zaki, who heads the parliamentary committee, said legislators would try to hold one more meeting with Arafat and would issue their final report next week.

In a televised speech to religious leaders Tuesday, Arafat made no reference to reform. Instead, he listed complaints about Israeli policies.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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