WASHINGTON – The United States expressed disappointment Sunday with the announcement of a new Palestinian Cabinet that leaves Yasser Arafat (search) in control of security forces.
Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (search) had hoped to consolidate the various security forces under a single interior minister, in line with U.S. expectations. Arafat, the overall Palestinian leader, succeeded in putting a hand-picked confidant into the post and keeping the security forces under different commands.
"What is most critical is that Palestinians move quickly to end terror and violence and build strong Palestinian institutions in preparation for statehood," State Department spokeswoman Amanda Batt said.
"The prime minister must have control of all of the security forces and insist that terrorists and military organizations not under the control of the Palestinian Authority (search) be disarmed and dismantled," she said.
A department official commenting later on condition of not being identified by name said: "We will deal with the new group. They seem to be in control of security and the U.S. will deal with them. The test will be whether they will act to close down terrorist operations."
In a bid to stop Palestinian attacks, Israel and the United States had hoped to sideline Arafat and see the security services consolidated under an empowered prime minister. Arafat heads the Palestinian Authority and came up with the prime ministerial system for the Palestinian government to satisfy U.S. demands.