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Palestinian Ministers Tender Their Resignations

Associated Press

All but two of Yasser Arafat’s 18 Cabinet members offered their resignations Friday in response to allegations of widespread government corruption.

Agriculture Minister Abdel Jawwad Saleh said he and 15 other ministers signed a paper putting their fate at the discretion of Arafat, who can refuse to accept their resignations. The paper was presented to Arafat at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Ramallah.

“The president did not comment,” Saleh said of the resignation offers.

Another minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the ministers would abide by Arafat’s decision. Arafat was not expected to act soon, the minister said.

The other ministers left the meeting without speaking to reporters. Arafat’s office also refused comment.

A committee report presented Tuesday to the Palestinian legislative council found extensive abuses in all government ministries and recommended that the Cabinet be dissolved and replaced with “technocrats and qualified people.”

The Palestinian legislature voted 57-1 on Thursday to demand that Arafat dissolve the Cabinet.

The committee report was in response to a government audit that found nearly half the Palestinian Authority’s $800 million annual budget had been squandered through corruption and mismanagement.

The report said the audit’s figures were too high, but detailed extensive abuses in all government ministries and recommended that three ministers - Shaath, Civil Affairs Minister Jamil Tarifi, and Transportation Minister Ali Qawasmeh - be prosecuted.

All three appeared Wednesday before the legislative council to deny any wrongdoing.

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