RAMALLAH: Palestinian officials sought yesterday to resolve an impasse between President Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Ahmed Qorei over security powers that has delayed a renewal of peace moves with Israel.
Arafat and Qorei were due to meet at a central committee session of the president's Fatah movement later in the day to try to overcome their differences, Palestinian officials said.
Arafat converted Qorei's eight-member emergency Cabinet into a caretaker government on Tuesday hours before its 30-day term expired at midnight, allowing more time to overcome sharp disagreement on division of security powers.
The continued infighting held up a resumption of high-level talks proposed by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that might revive a stalled, US-backed road map to peace.
Israeli media reports had said earlier that Sharon and Qorei could meet as early as this weekend despite mutual scepticism about the scope for significant progress on political issues after three years of bloodshed.
Arafat and Qorei are jostling for control of security services vital for meeting the road map's requirement that Palestinians stop attacks on Israel by militant groups to qualify for an independent state under the plan.
When (Palestinian leaders) relate to this issue (of security) with all due concern...they will find us to be a partner for a dialogue on co-existence, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters.
Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said yesterday quiet, lower-level contacts were already in swing with the Palestinians to help pave the way to renewed peacemaking.
Arafat, a 74-year-old former guerilla leader and symbol of Palestinian nationalism, opposes Qorei's pick of General Nasser Yousef as interior minister with control over security forces.
Qorie's predecessor, Mahmoud Abbas, resigned in September after a similar dispute with Arafat over security powers.
Arafat fears losing them would reduce him to a figurehead.
Israel boycotts Arafat and wants him removed, saying he incites violence, an accusation he denies.In Jerusalem, a military spokeman said Israel has decided to ease its blockade of Palestinian towns in the West Bank with the exception of Nablus and Jenin.
The statement also confirmed the re-establishment of public transport links between towns. AFP
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