Palestinian rivals reach pact on unity government

Abbas and Haniyeh have reached a pact over the composition of unity government.
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Updated on Mar 15, 2007 12:19 PM IST
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PTI | ByHarinder Mishra, Jerusalem

Amid renewed factional fighting, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh have reached an agreement over the composition of the unity government.

"We have finished all the issues relating to the formation of the government tonight, including the issue of the minister of interior," Haniyeh said after meeting with Abbas in Gaza on Wednesday night.

Supporters of Abbas' Fatah and Haniyeh's Hamas party meanwhile fought pitched battles in which, according to medics, nine people, including two children, were injured in the northern Gaza Strip.

Talks, being held in Gaza, had reached a deadlock over the choice of the Interior Minister, who wields tremendous authority over the security apparatus, and a Hamas official said that Hani Al-Qawasmi, an academic with no known political affiliation, has been chosen for the post as a compromise candidate.

The full cabinet line-up will be unveiled today, officials from both sides said, and will be submitted to parliament for approval on Saturday.

Ahmed Bahar of Hamas, who serves as acting parliamentary speaker, said a special session would be convened on Saturday at 11 am to discuss the unity government's political platform and hold a vote of confidence.

Hamas will get nine Cabinet posts and Fatah will get six as per an agreement finalised last month in Mecca.

Economist Salam Fayyad, who enjoys US backing was tipped for the post, but Al-Ahmed, who enjoys strong party supporthas got the final nod.

Israel and the United States have said that they will boycott the unity government, including non-Hamas ministers, unless it recognises Israel, renounces violence and accepts interim peace deals as demanded by the Quartet of Middle East mediators.

Despite the agreement, renewed hostilities could spoil the show with a local Fatah commander claiming that his men have taken four Hamas supporters hostage in revenge for his one supporter being held by the them.

Earlier this week a Hamas field commander was killed in clashes in the northern Gaza Strip leading to pledges of revenge.

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