Abbas, Meshaal delay unity government talks: Fatah

AFP , Thursday 23 Feb 2012

Rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas postpone scheduled unity talks in Cairo due to internal splits within Islamist group over leadership issue

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Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday (Photo: AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his rival Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal on Thursday postponed talks on forming a unified government, a Fatah official said, in a further delay to ending an almost five-year rift.

The official with the Abbas-led party said talks were postponed "because Hamas continues to prevent the election committee from registering voters in Gaza," the Islamist-ruled Palestinian territory.

He added that Hamas, which has been split internally on agreeing to the unity government with the secular Fatah, has "not yet informed Abbas of its formal approval to end internal disputes on forming the government."

Abbas and Meshaal began their meetings in Cairo on Wednesday to implement the terms of a reconciliation deal they signed in the Egyptian capital in May, which called for an interim government and general elections within a year.

Representatives from both Fatah and Hamas have met several times to agree on a final line-up for the government to end their division after Hamas routed Fatah from Gaza in 2007.

A lengthy disagreement about the post of prime minister appeared to have been resolved in early February, when Abbas and Meshaal signed a deal in Qatar that put the president at the head of the interim government.

The government line-up was to have been announced shortly afterwards, but the Doha agreement was met with opposition from Gaza-based members of Hamas, as well as some officials in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Abbas's government is based.

Hamas politburo member Izzat Al-Rishq told AFP on Thursday that the Islamist movement's leadership had "taken a vote and decided with a comfortable majority that president Abbas would head the government."

On Wednesday, members of Hamas's leadership said the deal must be implemented in a "thorough and honest" way.

Abbas and Meshaal are to take part in two rounds of meetings with the leadership of all Palestinian factions, including Islamic Jihad, on Thursday and Friday.

It remains unclear when the final government line-up will be announced and elections held.

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