Fatah, Hamas to Announce New Government

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JERUSALEM, Israel - Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, reached a consensus Tuesday night on the makeup of an interim unity government, Fatah negotiating team head Azzam al-Ahmed said.

The details will be announced next week in Cairo, he said, after a meeting between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Damascus-based Hamas head Khaled Meshaal.

The decision followed meetings earlier this week in Cairo to iron out differences and implement the unity coalition.

On May 4, the two sides signed a reconciliation agreement in Cairo, saying they would form an interim government to serve until elections could be held. But the issue of who would head the government has proven problematic.

A week ago, the Fatah Central Committee announced its support of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad to head the new government. The Fatah-affiliated government believes he is the best candidate to keep international aid flowing to the cash-strapped P.A.

Hamas quickly rejected the endorsement, insisting the prime minister should come from Gaza.

"Hamas informed Fatah during the last meeting of its rejection of the choice of Salam Fayyad to head the new government," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

"The Fatah central committee's nomination of Salam Fayyad to head the government is a Fatah nomination and any head of the new government must be chosen by consensus and not, of course, by one of the parties.

Later, Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel released an official statement.

"It is certain we will not accept Fayyad either as the head of the government or as a minister in that government because after four years of siege, arrests and torture of Hamas leaders and members linked to the name of Salam Fayyad," Bardaweel said.

"Reconciliation for us in Hamas is a strategic goal we will seek to achieve by all means possible, but there are red lines we cannot agree to cross," he said.

The week after the two factions reconciled, Meshaal said Hamas would continue its path of "armed resistance" against the Jewish state. The Hamas chief reportedly said he would try to persuade Fatah to pursue the same path.

In the interim, Hamas officials announced it may remove itself from governance altogether to regain its popularity on the Palestinian street as a resistance movement.  Some Hamas members said the party can exert more influence from outside rather than embroil itself in the day-to-running of the government.

"Hamas found that being in government caused huge damage to the movement and therefore it has changed its policy," one senior official said, The Associated Press reported.

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