Abbas, Haniyeh fail to make progress

Talks on unity gov't stall; agreement reached on few appointments.

By AP, JPOST.COM STAFF
March 4, 2007 23:54
2 minute read.
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Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh failed to make progress on talks toward forming a unity government, an official said early Monday. The Palestinian newspaper Al Ayyam, however, published a potential list of candidates in its Monday edition. According to Al Ayyam, Hamas was pushing to appoint Ibrahim Radwan as justice minister, Dr. Maher Bader Sabra as communications minister and Mouhammed al Madhoun - current bureau chief for Haniyeh - as the youth and sports minister. One appointment on which both Hamas and Fatah agreed, according to Al Ayyam, was Salaam Fayad for the position of deputy prime minister. Fayad is considered a politician with a moderate outlook; Hamas officials said they would not object to his appointment. Government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said Haniyeh and Abbas were hoping to present a government by the end of the period allotted to Haniyeh, which expires in two weeks. Earlier, officials expressed hopes that the Cabinet could be named this week. The leaders met for three hours in Gaza, leaving just after midnight without talking to reporters. Abbas had arrived in the Strip for what his aides described as "decisive" talks with Haniyeh to patch up differences over the composition and political platform of the proposed government. Before the two rival faction leaders met, a war of words erupted between Fatah and Hamas, with each side accusing the other of seeking to derail the Mecca agreement. Differences over the identity of Fatah and Hamas ministers in the coalition cabinet are threatening to torpedo the Mecca agreement, a top Abbas aide told The Jerusalem Post. He also said "some differences" had sparked disputes between the two parties over the interpretation of the Mecca agreement, particularly regarding the status of previous agreements with Israel and recognition of United Nations resolutions concerning the Israeli-Arab conflict. "Some elements in Hamas are trying to thwart the Mecca agreement," the official said, warning against a resumption of intra-Palestinian violence. "These elements are unhappy with the agreement that their leaders reached in Mecca and are preparing for more fighting. They benefit from the continuation of the state of anarchy and lawlessness in the Palestinian territories." In Gaza City, Fatah leaders issued a statement threatening to employ an "iron fist" against unnamed Hamas members for allegedly trying to derail the Mecca agreement. "We know who these people are and who's behind them," the statement reads. "They are serving the interests of a party that is hostile to our people." In response, Hamas accused unnamed officials close to Abbas of working to thwart the Mecca accord. "While Abbas and the Fatah leadership are trying to consolidate the agreement, some people around them are trying to sabotage their efforts," the movement said in a leaflet distributed in Gaza City shortly before the Abbas-Haniyeh summit began. Hamas also accused Fatah gunmen in the Gaza Strip of carrying out a series of attacks against Hamas activists and institutions in the past three weeks, in violation of the Mecca agreement. Hamas also complained that Fatah-run Web sites were continuing to publish anti-Hamas material. At their meeting, Abbas and Haniyeh were trying to agree on the names of the ministers in the new Hamas-led coalition. Abbas remains opposed to Hamas's candidates for the key Interior Ministry post, Hamoudeh Jarwan and Nasser Musleh. The two sides are also at loggerheads over the Foreign Ministry portfolio, which, according to the Mecca deal, will go to an independent figure. Gazan legislator Ziad Abu Amr has been mentioned as a leading candidate.

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