fayad and abbas.
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas said on Sunday that it would not join a unity government with Fatah that was headed by outgoing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad.
Hamas's announcement came in response to reports that the US administration was demanding that Fayad head a new Fatah-Hamas government as a precondition for recognizing such a government and providing the Palestinians with financial aid.
PA officials would neither confirm nor deny the reports, which claimed US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had set the condition during her recent visit to Ramallah.
"We reject any attempt by the US to interfere in our internal affairs," said Ismail Radwan, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "The Palestinians alone will decide on the makeup of the new government."
Radwan said that in any case, Hamas was opposed to the appointment of Fayad as prime minister in a unity government.
"Fayad is unacceptable," he said. "The people don't want him; the factions don't want him."
Fayad, who submitted his resignation to PA President Mahmoud Abbas over the weekend, saying he wanted to pave the way for the establishment of a Hamas-Fatah government, indicated on Sunday that he was not interested in holding on to his job.
Speaking to reporters in Ramallah, Fayad said he had not submitted his resignation to apply for a new job in the PA.
Fayad expressed his full support for Abbas's efforts to achieve reconciliation with Hamas that would "reunite" the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Abbas, for his part, said he had instructed Fatah's delegation to the reconciliation talks to make every effort to ensure their success.
"I have instructed our delegation to make the talks succeed by all means," he said. "We must reach agreement over a unity government that would prepare for elections before January 2010. The new government will be entrusted with rebuilding the Gaza Strip. This will be its main mission." Meanwhile, Hamas and Fatah negotiators are scheduled to arrive in Cairo on Monday for talks on ways of ending their power struggle and forming a joint government. The talks are being held under the auspices of the Egyptian government.
A PA official in Ramallah said the US had given Abbas a "green light" to talk to Hamas about the establishment of a unity government.
He added that some US officials had made it clear that they would not scuttle efforts to form a unity government, on condition that Hamas be prevented from holding key portfolios.
Hamas and Fatah have already agreed on the formation of five joint committees to discuss various issues, including political and security matters. The committees are also scheduled to discuss the makeup of the new government, reconstruction of the PLO, and new presidential and parliamentary elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Hamas team is headed by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the Damascus-based Hamas political bureau, and Mahmoud Zahar, a senior representative from the Gaza Strip. They will be joined by three other Hamas officials: Khalil al-Hayeh, Nizar Awadallah and Ismail al-Ashkar.
The Fatah delegation, meanwhile, is headed by former PA prime minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala) and former PA foreign minister Nabil Shaath.
According to Shaath, the two parties will hold marathon talks at an undisclosed Egyptian security installation in Cairo in a bid to reach agreement on a unity government before the end of the month. He added that after talking to a number of Hamas officials, he was now under the impression that the talks were likely to lead to positive results.