CBNNews.com - RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas appealed to Hamas officials in the Gaza Strip to form a unity government.
Abbas's call comes a day after PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced his resignation to pave the way for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
"We must reach agreement over a unity government that would prepare for elections before January 2010," Abbas told reporters on Sunday.
"The new government will be entrusted with rebuilding the Gaza Strip. This will be its main mission, he said, referring to damages incurred during Israel's three-week military operation to end Palestinian rocket fire on the western Negev.
Hamas officials said they will not sit in a government led by Fayyad.
Their response was based on unconfirmed reports that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stipulated that Fayyad must head a Palestinian unity government as a prerequisite for U.S. recognition and financial aid, according to Jerusalem Post Palestinian Affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh.
"The Palestinians alone will decide on the makeup of the new government," senior Hamas official Ismail Radwan said. "Fayyad is unacceptable. The people don't want him. The factions don't want him," he said.
Delegations from the two rival factions plan to begin 10 days of negotiations in Cairo on Tuesday, with Egyptian mediation.
Abbas said he had instructed the Fatah delegation "to make the talks succeed by all means."
A Brief Look Back
In the PA legislative elections in January 2006, Hamas defeated Fatah, gaining a parliamentary majority.
The following January, at the invitation of Saudi President Abdullah, delegations from the two factions met in Mecca, paving the way for the formation of a unity government shortly afterward.
But the newly formed coalition, with Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh appointed as prime minister, lasted only three months.
In June 2007, Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Fatah in a bloody, five-day military coup.
Following the Hamas takeover, Abbas declared an emergency, dissolved the unity government, and deposed Haniyeh as prime minister, appointing Fayyad in his place.
Abbas's Term Ended in January
Though Abbas's official term ended on January 9 and Hamas had said it would no longer recognize him as president, the two factions are ready to begin negotiations again.
Abbas told reporters the new coalition would serve as a caretaker government until new elections in January 2010.
Meanwhile, Hamas, which refuses to renounce terrorism or recognize Israel's right to exist, said it will not accept any preconditions to negotiations with Fatah.
"We don't accept any preconditions regarding the platform and the program of the coming government," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said.
Israel, meanwhile, will soon have a new government headed by Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu, who does not favor appeasing terrorism.
Since a unilateral cease-fire declared by the Israeli government ended Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has responded to ongoing rocket attacks with air strikes on arms smuggling tunnels along the border with the Egyptian Sinai.
Sources: The Associated Press, The Jerusalem Post