Abbas to pledge swift action on new government

AFP , Wednesday 16 Nov 2011

In former president Yasser Arafat's death memorial, Mahmud Abbas renew his promise to cooperate with all the Palestinian factions including Hamas to form an interim government

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas was to pledge on Wednesday swift efforts with Hamas to form an interim government, in a speech marking seven years since Yasser Arafat's death.

The public address, details of which were explained to AFP by a Palestinian official, was timed to coincide with the 23rd anniversary of the Palestinian declaration of independence, made by Arafat in Algiers on November 15, 1988.

Abbas was expected to reiterate a pledge to "speed up" the formation of an interim government, which until now has stymied efforts to implement a unity deal signed by his Fatah movement and its Hamas rivals, who rule the Gaza Strip.

Moves to set up a unity government ahead of new elections will be central to key talks between Abbas and exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal when they meet in Cairo next week to try and advance the reconciliation deal between the rival movements.

Senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmed said the two factions had reached agreement on "important issues" which would be announced after the leaders meet on November 25.

"The meeting will also address the issue of presidential and legislative elections and there is an agreement between the Fatah and Hamas movements to hold them as scheduled in May," he told AFP late on Monday.

"They will be preceded by the formation of a national consensus government, the restructuring of the Central Election Commission, the formation of an election court, the initiation of national reconciliation and the restructuring of the security services," he said.

Ahmed said he had "visited Cairo secretly several times" to prepare for the meeting, which would "involve a mutual understanding."

At a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organisation's Executive Committee late on Tuesday, the Palestinian umbrella group, of which Hamas is not a member, had called for reconciliation efforts to be speeded up.

"The PLO executive committee underlines the importance of making real progress to open the way for reconciliation and advancing toward holding... elections," it said in a statement.

Fatah signed an unexpected reconciliation deal with Hamas in May under which they were to have quickly set up a caretaker government of independent figures to prepare for elections within a year.

But the agreement has never been implemented, with both sides bickering over the composition of the interim government and who should head it.

The last time the Palestinians went to the polls was for parliamentary elections in 2006, which Hamas won by a landslide.

New parliamentary and presidential elections had been due in January 2010 but the Palestinian Authority abandoned efforts to hold a vote after Hamas refused to organise one in Gaza.

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