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(photo credit: AP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas's decision to entrust PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad with heading a new government has drawn sharp criticism from several Palestinian groups, including Hamas.
Fayad's new government is scheduled to be announced this week, a PA official in Ramallah said over the weekend.
The official revealed that the new government will see only "minor" changes, with a number of ministers being replaced - apparently by Fatah representatives.
Fayad submitted his resignation to Abbas earlier this year, saying he wanted to pave the way for the establishment of a unity government that would bring Hamas and Fatah together.
But Fayad has since agreed to remain in power and head a new government that is likely to be announced in the coming days.
The PA official told The Jerusalem Post that a number of Fatah operatives may be included in the new make-up to meet the demands of Fatah leaders.
The official noted that Fatah leaders have long been putting heavy pressure on both Abbas and Fayad to reshuffle the cabinet so that it would include members of the ruling faction.
The Fatah officials who are slated to join the new Fayad government include legislators Hatem Abdel Qader and Qadoura Fares, as well as Nasser al-Qidwa, a nephew of former PA chairman Yasser Arafat.
Sources close to Fatah said that they did not rule out the possibility that former PA security commander Muhammad Dahlan would be appointed interior minister in the new cabinet.
The sources claimed that Abbas was under pressure from the US and some EU countries to allow Dahlan to play a security role in the new government. The interior minister is formally responsible for the work of the PA security forces.
On Saturday, several Palestinian factions strongly criticized Abbas's intention to ask Fayad to head a new government and warned that such a step would have a negative impact on efforts to end the Hamas-Fatah rift.
Ahmed Jibril, head of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command, said that Abbas's decisions were "unconstitutional" and "illegal" because his term in office expired earlier this year.
Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said that Abbas's moves would hamper efforts to end the power struggle between his movement and Fatah. He also accused the PA of succumbing to US pressure to avoid reaching agreement with Hamas over the formation of a Palestinian unity government.
The Egyptians are hoping to host another round of conciliatory talks between Hamas and Fatah later this week in what has been described as a last-chance effort to end the rift between the two sides.
Mashaal reiterated Hamas's rejection of the conditions of the Quartet for dealing with a Hamas-Fatah government, namely recognizing Israel's right to exist, abandoning terrorism and accepting all agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israel.