Abbas, Haniyeh meet to discuss coalition

Hamas delays announcement of its new cabinet due to Fatah's lack of response.

haniyeh 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
haniyeh 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
Hamas is expected to announce its new cabinet within a few days, Hamas legislator Nayef Rajoub said on Thursday. "The make-up of the new cabinet has been ready for three weeks, but we delayed the announcement because we're still waiting for a response from Fatah," he said. Meanwhile, a senior Hamas delegation has been invited to Riyadh for talks with Saudi leaders on the latest developments in the region following Hamas's victory in the parliamentary election. Sources close to Hamas said the delegation will meet with King Abdullah and several top officials in the kingdom to demand financial aid for the Palestinians. The delegation is also expected to visit other Gulf countries. Rajoub, who is the brother of former Palestinian Authority security commander Jibril Rajoub, said that Hamas would not wait until the last minute for Fatah's reply. The legislator's announcement came as PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas was set to meet with prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City on Thursday night to discuss the prospects of forming a national unity cabinet. The meeting has been described as decisive because it will determine whether Fatah would join a Hamas-led cabinet. Fatah and Hamas officials who met earlier in the day in Gaza City failed to reach an agreement on forming a joint cabinet, sources close to the two parties told The Jerusalem Post. Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Fatah parliamentary bloc, said differences between the two sides remain unresolved. He was speaking to reporters shortly after meting with Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar. "The differences between us continue to exist, especially with regards to the program of the new cabinet," Ahmed said, adding that Abbas and Haniyeh were scheduled to discuss the sticking points during their meeting late Thursday night. Fatah is demanding that Hamas present a written document outlining its political program, particularly concerning the peace process and agreements which the Palestinians have signed with Israel since 1993. "They promised to come up with such a document, but they haven't done so until now," Ahmed said. "We can't join the cabinet if we don't know what its political platform is." Hamas spokesman Salah Bardawil confirmed that the two sides were still squabbling over the formation of the new cabinet, pointing out that the differences center only on political issues. He reiterated his movement's keenness on including Fatah in the new cabinet. Another Hamas spokesman, As'ad Farhat, declared on Thursday that his movement would not accept the US-backed road map plan for peace in the Middle East. "The road map is actually an Israeli plan and no Palestinian could ever accept it," he said. "Those who think that the plan exists are mistaken." Farhat said Israel's refusal to withdraw to the pre-1967 borders, dismantle all settlements and allow the right of return for all refugees had all destroyed the road map. "If the Israelis and Americans don't recognize the road map, why should Hamas accept it?" he asked. The Hamas official noted that his movement won last January's parliamentary election on the basis of a platform that rejected the road map "because it's biased to Israel." He added that it was therefore inconceivable that some parties, including Fatah, were now asking Hamas to accept the road map.