Abbas says will not be PM if illegal, problematic


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday that he is not fixed on taking up the prime ministerial post in the unity cabinet, after the new government was postponed in the face of uproar in Hamas ranks.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera satellite channel in Qatar, Abbas said that neither party dictated his candidacy, but he and Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal agreed he lead the interim government.

The Fatah leader said he agreed on the position on the basis that the government is transitional, technocratic, and has a limited remit of preparing for elections and reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. He added that if his appointment raises political or legal problems, he will not insist on keeping the leadership role.

The cabinet is currently on hold at the request of Mashaal, who said the time was not right due to a disagreement with Hamas on proceeding, he told the channel.

Party chiefs announced a unity government headed by Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas after meeting in the Qatari capital last month.

The proposed cabinet was the latest push to implement a May 2011 reconciliation deal which sought to end the split into separate governments presided over by the rival factions.

Abbas’ proposed leadership role caused disquiet amongst the Gaza-based Hamas leadership, and both parties said the other had requested a delay in putting together the cabinet, creating another impasse.

Senior Hamas official in Gaza Mahmoud al-Zahhar said earlier Saturday that while the movement agreed to a deal with Fatah to form a transitional government, Hamas was concerned it may actually undermine the reconciliation accord between the parties.

“We specifically agreed on a non-partisan cabinet of technocrats to prepare for elections … implementing the deal may lead to undermining the (initial agreement),” Zahhar told reporters.

“If Israel refuses election committees and blocks voting, will Abbas’ government be permanent?” he added.

Hamas won the last parliamentary vote, but was shunned by the international community, and infighting with Fatah exploded into near civil war in 2007. Hamas took power in Gaza, and a Fatah-controlled administration operates out of the West Bank, paralyzing legislative and electoral processes for five years.

Last year’s reconciliation deal also included the release of political prisoners, and reform of the umbrella body representing Palestinians on the world stage, the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Abbas told Al-Jazeera the PLO reactivation committee formed after the deal is working to get the organization’s parliament, the Palestinian National Council, to meet, and is charged with arranging elections and appointing members.

The president reiterated that he does not permit “the detention of any person for their ideologies, affiliations, or remarks,” saying that any detainee in West Bank jails has been charged with a crime, and is not necessarily affiliated to Hamas.

Abbas, Mashaal and many others “feel it is a shame on us if the rivalry continues,” the Fatah chief added.

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