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New Palestinian Cabinet Approved

In a 48-13 vote, Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei’s 24-member cabinet was approved. The prime minister has also criticized Palestinian militant groups and urged an immediate cease-fire.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also delivered a conciliatory statement, calling for an end to the violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

“We do not deny the right of the Israeli people to live in security side by side with the Palestinian people also living in their own independent state,” Arafat said.

Israeli leaders seemed unimpressed with Arafat’s statement.

“You cannot hold an olive branch in one hand and a ticking bomb in the other,” said Dore Gold, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, referencing recent Palestinian suicide attacks.

Sharon is expected to meet with Qurei soon, but no date has been set yet.

“If he will bring about quiet, Israel will not oppose this,” said Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Sharon.

The new Palestinian government is expected to be sworn in immediately, which could help move the peace talks forward.

Qurei wants a timetable “to implement mutual obligations of the road map, beginning with an agreement for a mutual and comprehensive cease-fire,” he said.

“To the Israelis, we want peace and security and independence that will not be realized unless we work together,” Qureia said, urging a return to the “road map” created by the U.S., Europe, Russia and the United Nations. “Let’s help each other stop this cycle of hell.”

Though Israel and the Palestinians have not kept to the plan, it is intended to end violence and create a Palestinian state by 2005. Leading up to the new state, Israel is supposed to stop settlement construction and Palestinian security forces are to dismantle militant groups.

Palestinian militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad said Wednesday they would consider a truce with Qurei to end attacks, but Hamas doubted any success.

Also on Wednesday, in the Gaza Strip, an Islamic Jihad member fired on Israeli troops, who shot back and killed the Palestinian, the Associated Press reported.

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