Hamas says Abbas called for unity govt delay 26Feb12 February 26, 2012

Ma’an News Agency  -  25 February 2012

GAZA CITY (Ma’an) — A senior Hamas official counteracted Fatah statements that their party is responsible for postponing formation of a unity government, in an exchange of accusations on Saturday.

Fatah spokesman Ahmad Assaf immediately denied the accusation.

Hamas leader Salah al-Bardawil said Fatah leader President Mahmoud Abbas had asked Hamas chief Khalid Mashaal to delay the new cabinet, to get other tenets of the deal sorted out first.

According to al-Bardawil, Abbas wants to ensure national elections can be held in Jerusalem, which must be ok-ed with Israeli authorities, and to implement “all the principles” of the original May 2011 reconciliation deal signed in Cairo by the party chiefs.

These tenets, including the release of political prisoners, and free circulation of banned newspapers, have not been implemented in the nine months since the deal was signed.

But al-Bardawil insisted that the reconciliation talks have been clear and honest, without any “complications” as suggested by Fatah official Azzam Al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad said earlier it was Hamas that requested the new government be delayed, and Abbas, who will head the cabinet under an agreement with Mashaal earlier this month, agreed to the request as he understands that Hamas has an internal disagreement on how to proceed.

In early February, the party chiefs agreed in the Qatari capital for Abbas to head a new unity government to prepare for fresh elections, causing some disquiet amongst the Gaza-based leaders of Hamas.

In an apparent effort to re-balance Hamas’ position, the party agreed at a Wednesday meeting on demands to Abbas’s party for the new government — including retaining control of key ministries — according to one official involved in the talks.

Al-Bardawil said Saturday that Hamas has a single position on the Doha meeting and has not put out any further requirements for setting up the government.

Palestinian Liberation Front chief and PLO official Wasil Abu Yousif also added on Saturday that the government will be formed after central election commission starts to update the electoral register in the Gaza Strip.

The commission re-opened offices in the Gaza Strip in January, but said in the following weeks that it has not been permitted to start voter registration in the territory.

The May 2011 agreement had envisaged presidential and legislative elections within a year, but Abbas has yet to issue the presidential decree required three months prior to the poll.

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