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Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
New Palestinian constitution in force
The Palestinian parliament in Gaza City
The Authority has other trappings of a modern state
A provisional constitution has come into force in the Palestinian Authority.

The Basic Law enshrines democracy, separation of powers and judicial independence - values the United States has urged the Palestinians to adopt.

Key provisions
Religion: Islam
Language: Arabic
Capital: Jerusalem
Sharia forms basis of legal system
It was drawn up as far back as 1997 but only signed recently by Yasser Arafat and will now operate until a formal Palestinian state is established.

A BBC correspondent says the key test will be whether or not Mr Arafat's administration - often accused of authoritarianism - implements the new laws.

Yasser Arafat
Arafat: Under pressure to reform
Justice Minister Ibrahim Dughmeh announced the new constitution at a news conference in Gaza City.

"This law defines the powers of the Palestinian Authority and will serve as the constitution until the establishment of a Palestinian state," he said.

Its 112 articles envisage a "democratic power, based on pluralism, an independent judiciary and an elected parliament with a legislative role", according to copy obtained by the French news agency AFP.

The Basic Law also provides for regular presidential elections, and a system of political balances in which parliament counterbalances the cabinet.

US President George W Bush has insisted that the Palestinians embrace democratic values as a condition for considering their clams to statehood.


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05 Jul 02 | Middle East
30 May 02 | Middle East
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