Hamas warns Abbas not to form new government alone

Terror group warns such a move would be regarded as a "fatal blow" to Egyptian efforts to end the power struggle with Fatah.

Abbas Haniyeh 224.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Abbas Haniyeh 224.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
After failing to reach agreement with Hamas over the formation of a Palestinian unity government, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is planning to form a new government that would not include representatives of the Islamic movement, a PA official in Ramallah said Thursday. In response, Hamas warned that such a move would be regarded as a "fatal blow" to Egyptian efforts to end the power struggle with Fatah. Nabil Abu Rudaineh, a spokesman for Abbas, said that Abbas was expected to announce a new government soon. He did not give a date, but another PA official said the new government would most probably be established on the eve of Abbas's visit to Washington, where he is expected to meet for the first time with US President Barack Obama. "President Abbas still hasn't begun negotiations over the formation of a new government," Abu Rudaineh said. "But he does plan to form a government with a broad coalition in the near future." Earlier this week, Fatah and Hamas representatives again failed to reach agreement over the formation of a joint government and other issues concerning the status of the PLO, the Palestinian security forces and the political program of the proposed coalition. Representatives of the two sides who met in Cairo at the request of Egyptian General Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman said the gap between them remained as wide as ever. They said the most significant difference was over whether the unity government would recognize Israel's right to exist and previous agreements signed between the Palestinians and Israelis. According to a source close to Abbas, the PA president is expected to ask the current prime minister, Salaam Fayad, to head the new government that would exclude Hamas. Fayad, who submitted his resignation several weeks ago, has since agreed to stay in office at Abbas's request. At least half of the ministers in the new government will be from Fatah, the source said, pointing out that both Abbas and Fayad have been strongly criticized for not including one Fatah representative in the current government. Over the past few months, several Fatah officials have repeatedly threatened to boycott the Fayad government for ignoring them. The name of chief PA negotiator Saeb Erekat has been mentioned as a leading candidate for foreign minister in the new government. Two top Fatah operatives, Hatem Abdel Qader and Qadoura Fares, are slated to join the new coalition, according to the source. Abbas, meanwhile, is scheduled to visit a number of Arab capitals next week ahead of his planned meeting with Obama in May. Abbas is expected to brief the Arab heads of state on the failure of the "reconciliation" talks between Hamas and Fatah and share with them his concerns over the policies of the new Israeli government, Abu Rudaineh said. Hamas legislator and spokesman Mushir al-Masri said his movement would not recognize or deal with any government that is established by Abbas without reaching agreement with Hamas. "Any agreement that is formed in the West Bank - not in the frame of an agreement with Hamas - would be unconstitutional and illegitimate," he said. "Such a move would not only consolidate divisions among the Palestinians, but it would also be seen as a coup against democracy."