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Qureia accepts appointment for prime minister Wednesday

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RAMALLAH, West Bank — Palestinian parliament speaker Ahmed Qureia on Wednesday accepted the post of prime minister and said he will present a small crisis Cabinet to parliament for approval within 24 hours.

Qureia's was nominated by Yasser Arafat on Sunday to replace Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned over the weekend amid a power struggle with the veteran Palestinian leader.

The announcement by Qureia came after days of indecision and appeared to have been spurred by a new spike in violence — two suicide bombings and an Israeli air strike in 17 hours.

Qureia, widely known as Abu Ala, initially had demanded guarantees that Israel will change its policies, including halting military strikes and targeted killings of militants. Israel has refused to do so.

Abbas resigned Saturday after four months in his post, dealing a setback to the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan for establishing a Palestinian state by 2005; Israel and the United States have refused to deal with Arafat, whom they accuse of fomenting terrorism.

Israeli officials have said they are concerned over Qureia's close relations with Arafat who they say impeded Abbas' efforts to bring a halt to violence and implement the peace plan.

Israel government spokesman Zalman Shoval said Israel's attitude toward Qureia would be determined by his actions. "Our attitude to Qureia will not be in accordance with what he says, but rather if in fact he implements what the road map, the U.S. and we expect from him," Shoval said.

Qureia said he would act quickly to form a crisis Cabinet of no more than eight ministers, and would try to present his team to parliament for approval on Thursday.

"What's happened is very dangerous," said Qureia after meeting with Arafat.

"What's happened from the Israelis is not acceptable; it is dangerous. What's happened ... (to) the Palestinians it's unacceptable; it is dangerous," he said.

Qureia said Arafat "urged me strongly to accept to form a government. I agreed."