Thursday, August 26, 2004

Arafat rebuffs Palestinian critics' latest push for reforms

Veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat turned back another effort by critics to force him to reform his bloated, corruption-plagued administration, as his parliament made do with a pledge for future action.

Internal Palestinian conflict escalated again on Wednesday, when gunmen opened fire on a convoy carrying a top Gaza security officer, seriously wounding him.

The two developments were related -- each an outgrowth of years of Arafat's one-man control, criticized by international donors and more recently by Palestinian reformers as corrupt and inefficient, pitting rival security forces against each other in a costly method of divide and rule.

Arafat stonewalled his detractors once again Wednesday in the latest confrontation over administrative reforms.

Refusing to sign presidential decrees needed for restructuring his administration, Arafat instead pledged to take the necessary steps in a letter to the parliament, and the lawmakers approved it, 31-12.

The recommendations included forming a viable government capable of fighting corruption more effectively and restoring law and order. It also called on Arafat to follow through on promises made in a speech last week to crack down on graft.