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Palestine Speaker to be interim president

November 11, 2004 11:17 IST

The Palestinian parliament speaker will be sworn in as Palestinian Authority president, in place of Yasser Arafat, in the coming hours, a Palestinian minister said on Thursday.

Arafat died early on Thursday in a Paris hospital. Palestinian officials have said they want to ensure a smooth transition. Under Palestinian law, parliament Speaker Rauhi Fattouh, a virtual unknown, is to become caretaker president until elections are held in 60 days.

"We can be certain transition will be smooth, and the Palestinian people deserve to have free and fair elections," Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat said.

He urged the United States to ensure that elections can he be held. In the past, Palestinian officials have said they cannot organise a vote until Israeli troops withdraw from West Bank towns and cities they reoccupied in a major military offensive in 2002.

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