Abbas to announce unity gov't, PA officials say

Hamas's Haniyeh ready to resign to as PM to end sanctions.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is expected to announce in the coming days the formation of a Palestinian unity government that will consist mostly of technocrats, PA officials in Ramallah said Saturday. Both Hamas and Fatah will have their own representatives in the new government, the officials added. The decision follows a series of understandings reached between Abbas and Hamas leaders in the past few days regarding the establishment of a unity government that will convince the international community to lift financial sanctions imposed on the Palestinians since Hamas came to power earlier this year. According to the officials, the political platform of the new government will make no mention of Israel's right to exist - one of three conditions set by the Quartet for dealing with any PA government. Instead, the platform will call for a mutual cessation of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, one official told The Jerusalem Post. Chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said a new government would not be sworn in unless it accepted Abbas's demands for a mutual cessation of violence with Israel and the release of kidnapped IDF Cpl. Gilad Shalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners held in Israel. Erekat also stressed that the new government would not enter office unless Israel released all Hamas officials and legislators who were arrested since the abduction of Shalit last June. After months of wrangling, the two sides last week announced that they had resolved most of their differences over the proposed government. The announcement came in the wake of the tragic incident in Beit Hanun, which resulted in the deaths of 19 civilians. The killings prompted Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to speed up their efforts to establish a new government with the hope that it would persuade the international community to resume financial aid to the PA. On Thursday, Abbas phoned Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and discussed with him ways of resolving the Fatah-Hamas crisis and the formation of a new government. The conversation was the first of its kind between the two in several months and was another sign of improved relations between them. Also on Thursday, Hamas presented Abbas with a list of its candidates for the premiership. The list consists of several figures from the Gaza Strip who, although they are not official members of Hamas, are considered closely associated with the Islamist movement. Haniyeh announced over the weekend that he agreed with Abbas on the basic outline for the new government and said that he is ready to quit his job to end the financial sanctions. "I'm prepared to resign for the sake of my people if the choice is me or the sanctions," he said after Friday prayers at the Palestine Mosque in Gaza City. Haniyeh said the talks over the establishment of a new government had been very successful and predicted a final agreement within three weeks. "Our brothers in Hamas and Fatah will continue talks within the next week to form a coalition government," he said.•