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Hamas rejects Abbas's new government

world Updated: Jul 15, 2007 04:38 IST

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Hamas on Saturday rejected as unconstitutional the government appointed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to replace a Hamas-led cabinet, and called for parliament to convene to try to reverse the decision.

Abbas, who leads the secular Fatah faction, disbanded a government led by the Islamist group and formed an emergency administration after Hamas seized the Gaza Strip by force on June 14. Since then he has ruled by emergency decree.

Responding to a constitutional limit on the 30-day state of emergency, Abbas on Friday swore in three new ministers and reappointed Salam Fayyad as prime minister. Fatah said the maneuvers put the government on a new legal footing.

But Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the caretaker government was illegal. He said the Islamist group "will not deal with it in any way or form, and we call upon our people not to deal with it".

Hamas called for a special session of the Palestinian parliament to be convened on Sunday to try to challenge Abbas's decisions. It is unclear how the session can be held since Fatah is expected to boycott it, preventing a quorum from being assembled.

Lawmaker Abdullah Abdullah, a Fatah leader in parliament, said it was "illegal" to convene the parliament on Sunday because it has not started a new session. "We'll not join in," he told Reuters.

Hamas won a majority of the seats in parliament in a January 2006 election, but Israel has arrested about half of the group's 74 legislators and it can no longer assemble a majority.

Abbas's aides say his actions are in keeping with the Palestinian Basic Law, which functions as a constitution.

But the senior lawyers who wrote the Basic Law said this week that Abbas exceeded his powers.

While the document gave Abbas the power to dismiss Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as prime minister, they said it did not grant him the power to appoint a new government without legislative approval nor the right to suspend articles of the Basic Law, as Abbas did to spare Fayyad the need to win a vote in parliament.