Abbas officially named to head interim Palestinian govt

AFP, Monday 6 Feb 2012

Rival Palestinian factions agree to name president Mahmoud Abbas as head of an interim government that will oversee preparations for presidential and legislative elections

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (C) meets Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal (R) and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani (2nd R) in Doha. (Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will lead an interim national consensus government to prepare for upcoming elections, under an agreement signed on Monday in the Qatari capital.

The "Doha Declaration" was signed by Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal in the presence of Qatar's emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani in Doha.

The agreement states that the new Palestinian government will comprise "independent technocrats," and will also be responsible for overseeing reconstruction efforts in the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian official speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said the Islamist Hamas and Abbas's secular Fatah movement have agreed that the "national consensus government will be made up of independents and technocrats and they will be responsible for overseeing the elections."

He did not say when the elections would take place, but under the terms of the reconciliation deal parliamentary and presidential elections are both to be held by May.

Hamas, meanwhile, has confirmed that Abbas will be named premier, according to a statement published on a website affiliated with the group.

"We have reached initial agreement," on Abbas's appointment, the statement said, citing an unidentified Hamas official.

Another Palestinian official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the parties agreed to hold a meeting with "all other Palestinian political factions" in Cairo on February 18, when Abbas's appointment "will be endorsed."

"That's when we'll set the date for the parliamentary and presidential elections," he said.

Among other major issues to be decided in Cairo are elections for the Palestinian National Council (PNC), the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organisation which does not include Hamas, the official said.

Implementation of the deal has been delayed several times despite repeated meetings between the two parties, but on Sunday they agreed to move speedily ahead with elections.

"We agreed on the importance of holding the elections quickly... and removing any obstacles that might delay the polls," said Fatah spokesman Azzam al-Ahmad, who is with Abbas in Doha.

He said Sunday's talks, hosted by Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, were "positive" and that both sides reached "agreement on all the major issues" regarding the reconciliation accord.

The last Palestinian elections were in 2006 when Hamas beat the previously dominant Fatah to secure more than half the seats in parliament.

Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza after a week of deadly clashes in June 2007, cleaving the Palestinian territories into rival hostile camps.

Since then, Gaza has been effectively cut off from the West Bank, which is under the control of Fatah.

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