Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has agreed to appoint a prime minister as part of an ongoing reform of the Palestinian Authority.
The move is a key demand by the United States and other countries trying to end nearly 29 months of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
While making the announcement in Ramallah today (Friday), Mr. Arafat did not say who would be named prime minister, when the appointment would take place or what powers the prime minister would have.
Israeli officials welcomed the move, but said negotiations won't take place until violence stops. They also said they don't believe peace is possible as long as Mr. Arafat is in power.
Strong candidates to become prime minister include two of Mr. Arafat's long-serving aides, Ahmed Qureia and Mahmoud Abbas. Another candidate is Finance Minister Salam Fayad -- a technocrat who was brought into the Palestinian cabinet last year to root out corruption.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army today (Friday) blew up a tunnel suspected of being used to smuggle weapons between Egypt and the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli army also demolished several homes suspected of being used by militants in the West Bank.
An army spokesman is quoted as saying the total closure of Palestinian territories has been extended until Sunday due to an increased threat of attacks.