Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Palestinians form unity government; the unwilling->Israel /US will boycott

Palestinians form unity government
MARCH 14, 2007 Al Jazeera

Fatah and Hamas, the rival Palestinian factions, have agreed on the composition of a Palestinian unity government.

Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian prime minister and leader of Hamas, made the announcement after talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president and Fatah leader, in which they agreed the appointment of a new interior minister.

Haniya said: "Today is an occasion to celebrate. We have done everything."

The full cabinet line-up will be unveiled on Thursday, officials from both sides said.

Final approval

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a spokesman for president Mahmud Abbas, said: "The government is now ready and its composition will be announced on Thursday morning."

Ghazi Hamad, spokesman for the rival Hamas movement, said Haniya has already asked parliament to convene on Saturday at 0900 GMT to vote on the new line-up.

The two sides agreed at a summit in Mecca in February to form a unity government after months of fighting in Gaza that left dozens of Palestinians dead.

Hani al-Qawasmi, a senior interior ministry official with good relations with both Hamas and Fatah, was named as the new interior minister.

Interior minister

Speaking exclusively to Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, al-Qawasmi said: "It's a very serious job, I have not yet been told about the nature of this role.

"We will depend on the goodwill of the people of the country and will work things out in the right way."

Israel has vowed to boycott the unity government, including non-Hamas ministers, unless it recognises the Jewish state, renounces violence and accepts interim peace deals as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

Washington has also made clear to Palestinian officials that the embargo will not be lifted until the three conditions are met.

Nabil Abu Rdeneh, a senior aide to Abbas, urged the international community to give the government a chance, despite misgivings about Hamas.

"There will be a new Palestinian government and we call on all parties, including the Arabs, to work and live with this government, and to give it an opportunity," he said.

"The moment we come to an agreement with Israel we will go to a referendum and the Palestinian people will be the final ones to decide."

Palestinians hope the deal will end fighting between secular Fatah and Hamas Islamists, as well as ease a crippling aid embargo of the Palestinian Authority by western governments.

Hours before the announcement, nine people were wounded in clashes between Hamas and Fatah factions in northern Gaza on Wednesday, hospital sources said.

They said the clashes broke out in Beit Lahya, where about 12 members of the two factions were kidnapped.

Senior cabinet members

Prime minister: Ismail Haniya, Hamas

Deputy prime minister: Azzam al-Ahmad, Fatah

Culture: Bassam El Salehi, Peoples party (communist)

Foreign: Ziad Abu Amr, independent

Finance: Salam Fayad, independent

Health: Radwan al-Akhras, Fatah

Information: Mustafa Barghouti, independent

Interior: Hani al-Qawasmi, independent

Transportation: Saidi al-Krunz, Fatah

Planning: Sameer Abu Aicheh, independent

Public works: Samih al Abed, Fatah

Prisoner Affairs: Suleiman Abu Sneina, Fatah, West Bank

Secretary of state: Khuloud Ehdeib, independent

Social Affairs: Saleh Ziedan, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine