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Arafat convenes new Cabinet; Israel ends siege of complex
RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Yasser Arafat convened his new, streamlined Cabinet at his West Bank headquarters Thursday, four days after Israeli tanks blockaded the complex and caused a delay.
Israel ended the blockade in Ramallah on Wednesday, and on Thursday five new ministers put their hands on a Quran and swore allegiance to the Palestinian Authority. The slimmer Cabinet -- down to 21 ministers from 31 -- came after Israel, the United States and Europe demanded that Arafat reform his corruption-ridden Palestinian administration.
One of the ministers who was held over from the previous Cabinet, Planning Minister Nabil Shaath, flew to Washington Thursday to provide Palestinian input for U.S. ideas for Mideast peacemaking. His trip came after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon met President Bush and congressional leaders on Monday and Tuesday.
The convening of the Palestinian Cabinet happened at the Palestinian Authority headquarters complex.