Palestinian Cabinet Resigns Ahead of No-Confidence Vote

In a major blow to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, his 21-member Cabinet was forced to resign Wednesday to avoid being ousted by parliament in a vote of no confidence.

The showdown between the parliament and Arafat marked the most serious challenge to the Palestinian leader since he returned from exile eight years ago to take the helm of the Palestinian Authority.

"There is a crisis of confidence," said lawmaker Salah Taameri, a veteran member of Aessary. A majority of legislators speaking Wednesday said they would not approve the Cabinet.

Arafat has two weeks to present a new Cabinet, said Parliament Speaker Ahmed Qureia.

There has been widespread dissatisfaction with the Cabinet, with many ministers considered either corrupt or incompetent.

Arafat responded to the criticism in June when he added five new ministers with reputations for honesty and diligence as part of what he billed as major internal reforms. However, the changes were seen by many as largely cosmetic.