- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2003

JERUSALEM The Palestinian parliament yesterday rebuffed Chairman Yasser Arafat's attempt to dilute the authority of a future prime minister, keeping reforms sought by Washington alive for now.
In the Gaza Strip, 10 Palestinians, including a 4-year-old girl, were killed in two Israeli raids.
The confrontation between the increasingly assertive lawmakers and Mr. Arafat, 73, is being closely watched by international Middle East mediators.
President Bush said last week that a prime minister with real powers must be installed before a U.S.-backed three-year road map toward Palestinian statehood can be presented.
Parliament rejected Mr. Arafat's demand that he retain a say in appointing Cabinet ministers, and he summoned rebellious legislators afterward with the hope of changing their minds before a final vote today. Mr. Arafat's Fatah party has a majority in the 88-member parliament.
Attempts to restart Middle East diplomacy could be derailed if Washington determines that the new prime minister does not have sufficient authority and is dependent on Mr. Arafat.
Last week, parliament approved a bill defining the powers of the prime minister. It gave the prime minister the authority to form a Cabinet and supervise the work of the ministers, while Mr. Arafat was given continued control over peace talks with Israel and command of the security forces.
But Mr. Arafat, who has had sweeping powers, wants to keep a say in naming the ministers. That amendment was rejected in a preliminary vote yesterday.
Legislator Ziad Abu Amr said he and his colleagues were suspicious of Mr. Arafat's motives and expected him to try hard to avoid sharing power with a prime minister.
"Given the adverse relationship … the legislative council is reluctant to approve the amendments," he said. The parliament forced Mr. Arafat's Cabinet to resign in June in the first signs of a rebellion amid complaints of corruption and inefficiency in his regime.
Also yesterday, international pro-Palestinian activists disputed the Israeli military's statement that an American woman crushed by an Israeli bulldozer was killed accidentally.
The International Solidarity Movement said in a statement that Rachel Corrie, 23, of Olympia, Wash., was clearly visible to the driver of the bulldozer as she stood in the vehicle's path to try to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.
Miss Corrie was killed Sunday. She was the first foreign protester to be killed in 29 months of Palestinian-Israeli violence.
The Israeli military said the driver did not see Miss Corrie.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, 10 Palestinians were killed in fighting between Israeli troops and Palestinian gunmen in the Nusseirat refugee camp and in an army raid of the nearby town of Beit Lahiya.
Israeli forces entered Nusseirat about 4 a.m., as residents headed to mosques for morning prayers and farmers began taking crops to market.
Undercover troops surrounded the four-story home of Mohammed Saafen, 34, a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group in central Gaza. Mr. Saafen's relatives came out of the house, but he barricaded himself inside and was killed in the resulting shootout.
Fighting also erupted elsewhere in the camp, with troops firing machine guns from helicopters and tanks toward gunmen hiding in alleys and shacks.
Four-year-old Ihlam Assar was killed by tank fire, said her aunt, Itmead.

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