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Former Palestinian Authority finance minister Salam Fayyad does not rule out the possibility of joining a Hamas-led cabinet, Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said on Thursday.
"Hamas has invited Fayyad to join the new cabinet, and he said he will seriously consider the offer," Abu Zuhri said, noting that Hamas representatives met on Thursday with Fayyad, head of the Third Way list, which has two seats in the new Palestinian Legislative Council.
According to the Hamas spokesman, Fayyad stressed during the meeting that his list was keen on helping the new cabinet succeed in its mission.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, which was held at the home of Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza City, Fayyad said he still hasn't decided whether to join the new cabinet or not. He clarified that "the issue remains open pending future understandings [with Hamas]."
Fayyad said there was a need for all the factions to reach an understanding on the political and security program of the Hamas-led cabinet. "We want the new cabinet to succeed," he added. "But this requires an understanding on many issues, especially the nature of the Palestinian political system and the role of the president of the Palestinian Authority, who is also the chairman of the executive committee of the PLO."
Although the make-up of the new cabinet remains unclear, sources close to Hamas said that Mahmoud Zahar may be appointed foreign minister. Atef Adwan, a Hamas legislator, confirmed that Zahar was a top candidate for the post. However, he said it was too early at this stage to talk about the identity of ministers.
"Zahar will serve in the new cabinet," Adwan said. "But for now it's not clear which portfolio he would hold. Hamas is continuing to hold consultations on this issue." He predicted that the names of the ministers would be announced some time next week.
Meanwhile, outgoing Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei said on Thursday that there was a "slim" chance that Fatah would join the new cabinet. Fatah leaders who met with Hamas officials in Gaza City over the past few days said their party had agreed in principle to join the cabinet.
But Qurei said Fatah should now focus on reforming itself in the aftermath of its defeat in the January 25 parliamentary election. "Fatah must pay more attention to itself and focus on rebuilding its institutions," he said. "We also need to learn from our mistakes."
Qurei expressed deep concern over threats by Israel and the international community to cut off financial aid to the Palestinians in the wake of Hamas's victory, saying the PA was already facing financial difficulties. He urged the international community not to punish the Palestinians, adding that the families of 140,000 civil servants will be affected by the sanctions.
PA officials here disclosed that Hamas had expressed reservations about Abbas's demand that the new cabinet abide by all agreements signed between the PLO and Israel, including the Oslo Accords. The demand was included in a letter of appointment sent by Abbas to Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who has been entrusted with forming the new cabinet.
"Hamas is not prepared to accept this demand," said a top Abbas advisor. "I believe they are making a big mistake because they can't avoid the commitments made by the PLO and the Palestinian Authority, especially those regarding relations with foreign parties."
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