Sunday, 7 July, 2002, 23:10 GMT 00:10 UK
New Palestinian constitution in force
The Authority has other trappings of a modern stateA 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.
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.
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.