Arafat appoints Balawi as acting Interior Min.

By Haaretz and Bpi.Service Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat appointed senior Fatah official Hakam Balawi as acting interior minister, Israel Radio reported Monday. Arafat also appointed Hassan Abu Libadi as the director of the prime minister’s office Monday, according to the Itim news agency.

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia’s choice for interior minister, General Nasser Yousef, was rejected by Arafat last week over Yousef’s failure to agree to being a member of the government without the approval of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Qureia’s emergency cabinet met for the first time on Monday in Ramallah, to distribute portfolios and to prepare for the upcoming PLC elections, Army Radio reported. Qureia and Arafat have agreed that the limited emergency government already sworn in will serve as an interim government for one month, following Qureia’s threat of resignation because he was unable to form a government acceptable to Arafat and the PLC. Since Arafat has been effectively restricted to the Muqata by Israeli forces, he has used the services of Hani al-Hassan as interior minister. In the past, the Palestinian chairman had maintained that government post under his direct control. One of the crucial responsibilities of the Palestinian interior minister is control over the various security organizations in the Palestinian Authority. This was the bone of contention between Arafat and the previous Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and the main reason for Abbas’ resignation in August.