CBSN

Palestinian P.M. Needs Extra Time

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, left, leaves his office after a cabinet meeting in the West Bank town of Ramallah Tuesday Nov. 4, 2003. Qureia said Tuesday he will present a new Cabinet to parliament for approval only next week, slowing recent momentum toward resuming peace talks with Israel. Seen right the chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.
AP
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia said Tuesday he will present a new Cabinet to parliament for approval only next week, slowing recent momentum toward resuming peace talks with Israel.

Qureia had faced a midnight (5 p.m. EST) deadline for the end of his 30-day mandate to form a new government.

The main obstacle to forming a government quickly is Qureia's ongoing dispute with veteran leader Yasser Arafat over choosing an interior minister, who would lead any possible action against Palestinian militants.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov told visiting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday that Moscow would rethink its plan to introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution on the "road map" plan for peace in the Middle East, an Israeli official said.

Ivanov did not promise to outright kill the conceived resolution, which would seek the Security Council's endorsement of the road map, said an official traveling with Sharon, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Ivanov said Russia believed such a resolution could breathe new life into the peace process, but that in light of Israel's objections, Moscow would reconsider its initiative.

Haaretz newspaper reports that Ivanov also complained to Sharon about his refusal to meet with Russia's Mideast envoy, after the diplomat had met with Arafat. Arafat reportedly replied that it was Israeli policy not to meet with foreign leaders and officials who meet with the Palestinian leader.

Israel, which has seen hundreds of U.N. resolutions passed against its policies over the years, is circulating its first resolution ever to the General Assembly as part of a new effort to engage the United Nations and to test whether the organization is capable of taking a balanced approach to the Mideast.

The Israeli resolution, a copy of which was given to The Associated Press on Monday, calls for the protection of Israeli children victimized by Palestinian terrorism. It closely mirrors a similar draft submitted by Egypt last week highlighting the plight of Palestinian children affected by more than three years of bloody conflict in the region.

Israeli diplomats said they would be happy if the General Assembly decided to drop the two drafts or adopt them both.

"The test will be if they pass the Palestinian one but not ours," said deputy Israeli Ambassador Arye Meckel in an interview with The Associated Press.

Israel has reacted angrily to a European Union poll that sees the Jewish state as a threat to world peace, reports CBS News Correspondent Robert Berger. The survey found that 59 percent of EU citizens see Israel as the most serious threat to world peace.

However, the top EU official in Israel, Gianne Carlo Chevelard, admits the poll was poorly worded.

"Only Israel was mentioned as concerned the Middle East," he said. "There was no mention of Palestine, of Palestinians, of Arafat.

Israel said the poll is another sign of European anti-Semitism.

Qureia wants Gen. Nasser Yousef for the job, but Arafat has balked — both for personal reasons and because he refuses to relinquish control of some of the security forces. Yousef is seeking broad powers, in line with demands by the United States and Israel that all armed forces come under a single command.

Despite the midnight deadline, Qureia said after a final meeting of his emergency Cabinet that he would present his new government next week — according to aides on Sunday or Monday.

"We cannot say that there is an agreement between the prime minister and the president about the person who would be in charge of the Interior Ministry," Qureia's chief of staff, Hassan Abu Libdeh, said. "Nasser Yousef is at the core of these discussions."

The developments delayed efforts to arrange a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Qureia. In preparation for such a summit, there has been a flurry of high-level meetings in recent days.

Sharon has voiced optimism about the new Palestinian leadership, saying he is ready for peace talks with Qureia. During a trip to Russia, Sharon made some of his most conciliatory comments since high-level contacts broke down in August, following a Palestinian suicide bombing that killed 23 people in Jerusalem.

"I believe that shortly a new Palestinian administration will arise which will fight to destroy the terror infrastructure and work for a real implementation of the road map (peace plan) and true peace," Sharon said late Monday in Moscow.

An official traveling with Sharon said that if Qureia forms a government, a meeting between the two men could take place "within a very short time."

Commenting on Israel's apparent about-face, senior defense officials said Israel wants to give Qureia's incoming government an opportunity to halt the violence by Palestinian militant groups and renew the peace process.

Sharon also may be responding to domestic pressure. The prime minister has come under heavy criticism for failing to halt the violence.