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Palestinians Approve New Cabinet - 2003-04-29


The Palestinian legislature has approved a new cabinet led by Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, clearing the way for launch of a new Mideast peace plan.

51 of 85 lawmakers supported the new cabinet in the vote taken today (Tuesday) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Loud applause greeted the result, which makes Mr. Abbas the first Palestinian prime minster.

The White House welcomed the Palestinian decision, saying it would soon release details of the new peace plan as promised. Diplomats say the plan could be unveiled by Thursday.

The so-called "roadmap" to Middle East peace envisions a Palestinian state being established next to Israel by the end of 2005. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer says President Bush looks forward to working with Israelis and Palestinians to advance the cause of peace.

Mr. Abbas has advocated peace with Israel since the 1970s and has been an open critic of the current Palestinian armed uprising.

Speaking to lawmakers before the vote Tuesday, he said there can be no military solution to the Palestinian conflict with Israel. He denounced the use of violence and said terrorism only destroys the Palestinian cause.

Mr. Abbas said the Palestinians want a lasting peace with Israel. But he said Palestinians will not accept anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (Raanan Gissin) says Israel will judge the new Palestinian prime minister by his actions. Israel has demanded a complete stop to Palestinian attacks on Israeli targets before resuming peace talks.

Two Palestinian militant groups -- Hamas and Islamic Jihad -- have vowed to continue armed attacks on Israel. In a statement, Islamic Jihad warned Mr. Abbas against implementing the roadmap or cracking down on militant groups opposed to peace with Israel.

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