A senior exiled Hamas leader on Wednesday called for the formation of a new Palestinian Authority goverment made up of independent technocrats without Fatah nor Hamas members as a way out of the crisis sparked by the Gaza-West Bank split. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas set up an emergency government based in the West Bank after Hamas' armed takeover of the Gaza Strip. The government's members are all independents, but Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk appeared to be calling for a new one, formed in consultation with the militant group. "All possibilities are open now. We can reach a consensus on a government - a technocrat government - that includes neither Fatah nor Hamas," Abu Marzouk, the Damascus-based deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
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"The government could not work without a Palestinian consensus, especially between Fatah and Hamas," he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders said on Tuesday that the US and EU decision to fund the government of Salaam Fayad won't succeed in removing Hamas from power.
Meanwhile, a prominent Muslim leader from the Gaza Strip was appointed Tuesday as social welfare and agriculture minister in Fayad's cabinet. Sheikh Mahmoud Habbash said he had agreed to join Fayad's cabinet because he felt that he had to carry out his "national duty at this very sensitive and difficult stage."
"The decision to lift the financial and political embargo on the Palestinian Authority is part of a conspiracy against Hamas and the Palestinian people," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
"The Americans and Europeans are trying to blackmail the Palestinians by providing financial aid only to Fayad's government. They have been trying to remove Hamas from power since 2006, but without success." Abu Zuhri criticized the West for employing double standards in dealing with the Palestinians. "They are refusing to accept the results of a free and democratic election that brought Hamas to power," he said. "Instead, they are now supporting the illegitimate government of Fayad." In response to reports that some Arab countries were worried about the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip, Abu Zuhri urged the Arab world to refrain from siding with one Palestinian party against the other.
"The Arab world appears to be divided over the last developments in the Gaza Strip," he added. "Some countries have remained neutral, arguing that the world must accept the choice of the Palestinians. However, there are some Arab countries that are continuing to meddle in Palestinian affairs by supporting one side against the other.
Abu Zuhri also denied reports that Egypt had decided to move its diplomatic mission from the Gaza Strip to Ramallah.
Egyptian diplomats and security officials based in the Gaza Strip were summoned to Cairo following last week's developments.
He also denied reports that Egypt has cut off all its ties with Hamas, noting that the head of Egypt's General Intelligence Force, Gen. Omar Suleiman, was continuing to talk to Syria-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.
Another Hamas leader, Khalil al-Hayah, on Tuesday expressed his movement's readiness to resume talks with Fatah to resolve the current crisis. He said Hamas had not planned to take over the Gaza Strip.
"Hamas did not have any plans to stage a coup against the Palestinian Authority," he said. "The only problem we had was a group of American and Zionist agents who were torching houses and attacking mosques in the Gaza Strip." The Fatah leadership decided on Tuesday to cut off all links with Hamas following the violent clashes in the Gaza Strip.
Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for the PA leadership, said there would be no dialogue with Hamas because it has broken the law. "They were behind the military coup in Gaza," he said. "Before any dialogue, Hamas must withdraw its armed people from all the places they occupied and give back the power to the legitimate authority."
Mahmoud Zahar, a former Hamas foreign minister, said the Gaza Strip was witnessing a period of calm and stability for the first time since the establishment of the PA in 1994. "The border crossings have reopened and are functioning and there is no shortage in fuel and food," he said.
Zahar pointed out that the state of anarchy and lawlessness had moved from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank, where Fatah militiamen were waging a campaign against Hamas institutions and figures. "If these attacks continue, Hamas will be forced to take measures to defend its representatives there," he cautioned. "There are many people in Fatah who are opposed to [Fatah operative] Muhammad Dahlan and Hamas will support them."
Zahar said the only way out of the current crisis was by resuming negotiations between Hamas and Fatah. "Either we return to the dialogue between us or we maintain the status quo and [formalize] the separation between the West Bank and Gaza Strip," he said. "There is no third option. If [Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud] Abbas wants dialogue, then he must rescind all his recent decisions, including the formation of an illegitimate government."
Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior PLO official closely associated with Abbas, accused Iran of encouraging Hamas to use violence to take full control of the Gaza Strip. Iran, he added, was supporting anti-democratic forces in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories for its own regional interests.
Khaled Abu Hilal, a former Fatah operative with close links to Hamas, has decided to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of the Fatah leadership in the Gaza Strip.
Abu Hilal, a former spokesman for the Hamas-led Ministry of Interior, announced that he would form a new party called Fatah al-Yasser (after Yasser Arafat.) Abu Hilal called on the "good guys" in Fatah to join his new party and on Fatah members in the West Bank to follow suit.