Palestinian factional leaders have met in Gaza and have appealed for calm as they plan for a future without Yasser Arafat at the helm.
With the President critically ill in a coma in Paris, 13 groups including the militant organisations Islamic Jihad, Fatah and Hamas have demanded the formation of a unified national leadership. There have been fears of a chaotic and violent power struggle in the West bank and Gaza in the event of Arafat’s death, leaders at the meeting said that isexactly what they are trying to avoid. Arafat has not named a successor, but his Prime Minister Ahmed Qurie has already been given temporary control of finanical affairs which were previously in the President’s hands. That came during a meeting in Ramallah with senior members of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation. But who will replace Arafat remains undecided largely due to the President’s refusal to groom someone for the role. His successor could radically change the dynamics of the Middle East conflict and the Palestinan struggle for an independent state.