Monday, February 12, 2007

Canada's response? Palestinian PM appeals for end to Western sanctions

Palestinian PM appeals for end to Western sanctions
February 12, 2007 By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) -
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appealed on Monday to the United States and other Middle East mediators to restore economic aid to the Palestinian Authority in response to a Hamas-Fatah unity deal.

"The American administration should reconsider its hasty position, which refuses to deal with the will of the Palestinian people," Haniyeh, a Hamas leader, said in a speech.

"I say to the Quartet and to the European Union that this is the will of the Palestinian people, and they should respect it and they should work to end the status of siege," he said.

The Quartet of Middle East mediators -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- cut off direct funding of the Palestinian Authority after Hamas came to power last year.

Hamas, an Islamist movement, has rejected the Quartet's conditions for restoring aid: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence and acceptance of existing interim peace agreements.

The unity agreement Hamas signed with the long-dominant Fatah faction in Saudi Arabia last Thursday made no explicit commitment to recognise the Jewish state.

Earlier on Monday, Israeli officials said earlier that Israel was considering suspending contacts with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas if the unity government did not meet the international demands.

The move could increase pressure on Abbas but hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way summit with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on February 19.

A letter from Abbas of Fatah reappointing Haniyeh as prime minister contained a vague call to the movement to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people" and "respect" past agreements and international law.


Haniyeh said the unity agreement reflected a desire by Hamas and Fatah to end factional warfare that killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February. A policemen died on Monday of wounds he had sustained in the clashes, hospital officials said.

Haniyeh said Hamas would hold nine cabinet posts, with six going to Fatah. An independent candidate would become interior minister, a position that oversees security services. He said he planned to hold more talks with Abbas to finalise the details.

Saudi Arabia's cabinet on Monday called for world support for the Mecca agreement, saying positive world reaction "would be a strong impetus towards alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people and help push the peace process forward".

Olmert told Israeli lawmakers he needed to assess where Abbas stood following his power-sharing deal with Hamas.

"Now they are one and they are one government," Olmert said, according to a parliamentary spokesman. "If (the new government) insists on the same stance, Abu Mazen (Abbas) would be moving from the positions that he had earlier."

Israeli officials said a suspension of contacts may only be temporary and that a final decision will not be made until the unity government is in place, a process that could take a month or longer.

Israel's response also depended on whether Abbas and the new government secured the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. "Gilad Shalit can serve as a test," Olmert said.

(Additional reporting by Adam Entous and Dan Williams in Jerusalem and Firouz Sedarat in Dubai)