Arafat Delays Portfolio Assignments

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has delayed announcing his ministerial portfolio assignments amid reports that he was negotiating with Islamic fundamentalist leaders to join the self-rule authority.

Arafat last week named 23 members to the Executive Authority, which will have the functions of a Cabinet, but he did not assign portfolios, saying that he might make more appointments.

On Wednesday, Arafat told the Palestinian Council that it might take another week or so before he finalizes the list of portfolio assignments.

According to the terms of the Interim Agreement signed in September in Washington, the Executive Authority is made up of council members and a small number of appointed officials.

The 82-member Palestinian Council, elected in January, has legislative responsibilities for the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Arafat was elected at the time to serve as head of both the legislative and executive branches of the self-rule government.

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