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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Is there a Palestinian unity deal: Abbas puts off declaring formation of unity gov't

The deal made in Mecca had a lot of "creative ambiguity" - which means each side is free to interpret it in their own way. This cannot be true in practice of course.
The trouble is starting...

Last update - 22:23 14/02/2007   

Abbas puts off declaring formation of unity gov't
By Avi Isscharoff, Haaretz Correspondent

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has canceled an address scheduled for Thursday in which he was officially to assign Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh the task of forming a unity government.
Abbas announced Wednesday his decision to cancel the address, which he was to give at noon on Thursday, due to increasing tensions between the rival Hamas and Fatah factions.
"Hamas has made several unacceptable conditions which cannot be implemented. The Mecca agreement cannot be re-interpreted and must be implemented immediately without any conditions," a Palestinian official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

" ... they have certain conditions on the interior minister and the foreign minister and on the executive force," he said.
The latest crisis erupted after Hamas insisted that Haniyeh would only dissolve the current cabinet on three conditions. The first of the conditions was that the unity government recognize every decision made by the Hamas cabinet, including political appointments and the security force it established.
Haniyeh's second condition was that Abbas must announce immediately which of two Hamas candidates has been chosen for the position of interior minister. According to the Mecca agreement, Hamas was to choose an independent candidate for the position of interior minister, but Abbas reserved the right to approve or reject the appointment.
The third condition was that Fatah must agree to consider Ziad Abu Amar, who was chosen to take on the role of foreign minister, as an independent candidate in order to enable Hamas a greater number of ministers in the cabinet.
Abbas is expected to head to the Gaza Strip on Thursday to meet with Haniyeh and work out the unresolved issues between the two factions.
Abbas aide: PA unity deal meets Quartet terms 100%
A top aide to Abbas said on Wednesday that the unity government deal with Hamas met all the demands of the Quartet of mediating powers and should be accepted.
The comments by Azzam al-Ahmad, an Abbas aide who heads Fatah's parliamentary bloc, came one day after officials close to Abbas admitted they were having difficulty persuading the international community to lift sanctions on the unity government.
"We will contact the Americans and explain to them all the items in the agreement in detail," Ahmad told reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah. "The agreement meets the conditions of the Quartet 100 percent."
The Quartet of Middle East mediators, composed of the United States, the
European Union, the United Nations and Russia, has called on the Palestinian government to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.
The unity agreement, signed by the ruling Hamas movement and Abbas's Fatah faction last week in Mecca, makes no explicit commitment to recognize Israel or renounce violence.
But a letter from Abbas reappointing Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as prime minister contains a vague call to Hamas to "abide" by Palestinian and Arab resolutions that include recognition of Israel, and to "respect" past agreements and international law.
Ahmad said these clauses implicitly met the Quartet's three conditions. "We have our own language," he said, adding that the deal "left no pretext for Israel or America" to keep sanctions on the government in place.
Hamas has said the unity government deal does not include recognition of
Israel and does not commit it to accepting previous agreements.
Haniyeh said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting in Gaza that he
would begin taking steps soon to ensure the unity government "can see the
light of day in the nearest time possible".
A government official said Haniyeh and his Hamas-led cabinet would resign
by Thursday to make way for the unity government.
Haniyeh is expected to lead the new government, according to the terms of
the deal, which aimed to end factional warfare in Gaza and ease an economic embargo on the Palestinian Authority.
Fatah head: Abbas wants Dahlan as new deputy PM
A senior figure in Abbas' Fatah movement said Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority Chairman wants party strongman Mohammed Dahlan to serve as deputy prime minister in a new unity government headed by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.
Dahlan, an advisor to late PA chairman Yasser Arafat, is viewed as Fatah's most senior figure in the generally Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip.
Haniyeh said Tuesday that it was "too early to talk about the resignation of the [Hamas-run] Palestinian government" in the context of the Mecca agreement on a Palestinian unity government.
The prime minister was speaking as he arrived at the PLO office in the Gaza Strip, where he was meeting with representatives of other Palestinian factions.
Haniyeh had been slated to submit his resignation on Wednesday, according to a statement made Monday by his political adviser, Ahmed Yusuf.
But Palestinian sources said Haniyeh is worried that Abbas will try to prevent him from being appointed head of the unity government, due to heavy Israeli and American pressure to get the new government to recognize Israel.
It appears that Haniyeh is waiting for Abbas to make an official announcement assigning Haniyeh the task of forming a new government. Abbas is expected to make the announcement Thursday.
Meanwhile, Abbas's adviser, Nabil Amar, said that top European Union officials with whom he met recently in Brussels viewed the Mecca agreement in a positive light but requested more time to examine the new situation.
Unresolved issues
Some Hamas lawmakers said Haniyeh would not step down until he and Abbas had finalized several unresolved issues in the Saudi-brokered deal, including naming an interior minister and deputy prime minister.
Abbas and Hamas have yet to settle their differences over the fate of
Hamas's 5,600-member "executive" police force. Fatah is pushing for the force to be broken up, but Hamas wants to keep it together.
Fighting between Hamas and Fatah killed more than 90 Palestinians between late December and early February.
Israeli officials said Israel was considering suspending contacts with Abbas if the unity government did not meet all three Quartet demands.
The move could increase pressure on Abbas and hinder U.S. efforts to revive long-stalled peace talks. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans a three-way meeting with Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem on February 19.

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