'Hamas was forced to take over Gaza'

Mashaal says group recognizes Abbas as PA leader; objects to int'l forces.

Salam Fayad 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Salam Fayad 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Mashaal said Friday evening that Hamas recognizes Mahmoud Abbas as the head of the Palestinian Authority, and that his group wants to cooperate with him for the sake of the Palestinian people. Mashaal also said that Hamas did not want to take over the Gaza Strip, but was "forced" to, Israel Radio reported. Referring to Abbas's proposed emergency government, Mashaal said that it had no legal standing and that Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh would remain the Palestinian premier. According to Haniyeh, the Palestinians voted for Hamas so the group would ensure security and end bloodshed in Gaza.
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  • Disconnect from Gaza or talk to Hamas? Mashaal also stressed that Hamas would not accept international peacekeepers or a deployment of Arab forces, and called on Fatah not to extend the power struggle to the West Bank. Senior Abbas aide Ahmed Abdel Rahman rejected Mashaal's overtures. Rahman told Al-Jazeera that Fatah would not hold talks with "murderers." Earlier Friday, Hamas condemned the appointment of political independent Salam Fayyad as the new Palestinian Authority prime minister as a "coup." Abbas announced the appointment in the West Bank, a day after Hamas defeated forces loyal to Abbas' Fatah movement and took control of the Gaza Strip. Fayyad, an economist who is well-respected by the international community, will replace Haniyeh, who was fired by Abbas on Thursday. In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Ismail Ridwan accused Abbas of taking "hasty and illegal steps" meant to please Israel and the United States. He said the appointment will divide the Palestinians. "This is a political coup and it has serious consequences," he said. Abbas's office said Friday that a new emergency PA government would be sworn in later in the day, but followed it minutes later with an announcement that the event had been postponed. There was no immediate explanation for the confusion.