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PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES: Fatah and Hamas call their top leaders to the rescue

June 14, 2011 |  1:00 pm

Unable to agree on who will run the new Palestinian national unity government, the secular Fatah movement and the Islamist Hamas, two bitter rivals for years, decided Tuesday to call their top leaders to the rescue.

After a meeting in Cairo to discuss government formation, the two main Palestinian political factions decided that it was time to have the Fatah leader, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, and the Hamas leader, Khaled Mishal, to join the next “final and decisive” meeting planned for next Tuesday in Cairo.

Azzam al-Ahmad, who heads the Fatah delegation to the talks with Hamas, told a news conference in Cairo that the two sides have decided to ask their leaders to join the next session of talks in order to resolve the issue of government, which the two sides were not able to reach an agreement on.

The conflict obviously was over the current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Fatah had decided in its last meeting on Saturday in Ramallah to name Fayyad, an internationally accepted figure, to run the new government.

However, Hamas was quick to reject him, accusing Fayyad of being responsible for arresting and torturing its members in the West Bank during his four-year rule as prime minister.

Fayyad, speaking Tuesday in Ramallah on the possibility of his nomination for the prime minister post and Hamas' objection, said that since Fatah and Hamas have agreed that the next prime minister should be a result of consensus, he will accept whatever the two sides agree on.

“If there was a consensus on me to run this government, I will be ready to do that,” Fayyad said after meeting European officials in Ramallah. “But I want to stress that I will not accept that there will not be an agreement or a delay in forming the government because of me. I will not force myself on anyone and I do not want anyone to think that I was imposed on them.”

Ahmad did not want to say in the news conference in Cairo whether Fayyad’s nomination was the cause for the snag in the government formation. “I do not want to talk about anyone being ruled out. We agreed that there will be consensus on this matter, but so far we do not have consensus,” he said.

The participation of Abbas and Mishal will be “good for the talks,” Ahmad said. “Their participation will cut down on time. We will not have to stop the talks to return for consultations. We are in a hurry. Next Tuesday's meeting should be final and decisive,” he said, stressing that “an agreement is within reach.”

--Maher Abukhater in Ramallah, West Bank