Palestinian factions agree on unity government
A unity government with members from rivals Hamas and Fatah will be presented to the Palestinian parliament for approval Saturday, officials said Wednesday.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah met for hours to work out the final details of the agreement.
"Today is an occasion to celebrate," Haniyeh said after the meeting Wednesday. "We have done everything."
The government will be dominated by Hamas, which will hold nine cabinet posts, compared to Fatah's six. In Wednesday's meeting, Haniyeh and Abbas decided who will holdkey cabinet positions, includingthe minister of the interior, who controls security.
Thenames of the ministers will be announced Thursday.
One name has leaked out Wednesday. Fatah officials said parliamentarian Azzam al-Ahmed, who enjoys strong party support,will be deputy prime minister. He was chosen over Salam Fayyad, an independent economist who is highly respected in international circles.
It has also been decided that Haniyeh will keep his job.
The unity government is an effort to ease Western restrictions on aid to the Palestinians, introduced after Hamas won the parliamentary elections in January 2006.
Aid was stopped because Hamas rejected three international demands: acknowledge Israel's right to exist; renounce violence; and accept previous steps toward peace with Israel.
The Hamas-Fatah deal says the new government will respect previous peace deals with Israel.
Abbas has been pushing for the unity government, both to restart the flow of aid and to end the warfare between Hamas and Fatah, which left at least 80 dead from fighting early this year.
He has told the U.S. that the accord was the best that could be negotiated, but it's not clear whether the new government will be acceptable to the U.S. and other countries that have given the Palestinians aid in the past.
The U.S. has said it will not respond until it sees the new government's policies. That may happen as soon as next week when U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to visit the area.
The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority government resigned in February to make room for the new coalition.
With files from the Associated Press