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Az-Zahhar: Unity 'worthless' until government formed

Aug. 10, 2011 10:19 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 11, 2011 11:31 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Hamas leader Mahmoud Az-Zahhar said Tuesday that reconciliation meetings with Fatah were "worthless" until the parties reached an agreement to form a unity government.

Hamas and Fatah met in Cairo on Sunday to discuss ways to implement the reconciliation agreement signed in late April. The landmark unity deal was set to end years of hostility between Hamas and Fatah.

The rivalry led to the division of the Palestinian territory under separate governments as Hamas took control of Gaza while the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority controlled of the West Bank.

Az-Zahhar said forming a unity government was the obstacle in implementing the reconciliation agreement, and that it had been "put aside" during Sunday's meeting.

Hamas and Fatah agreed on Sunday to postpone discussing the government, the PLO committee and the legislative council until September.

The senior Hamas official said that it was difficult to implement the reconciliation agreement without a unity government. He accused Fatah of stalling in forming the interim leadership.

But the parties continued to meet to show "we didn’t forget the reconciliation because every suggestion that is agreed upon is connected to creating the new government," Az-Zahhar said.

Implementing marginal issues, like releasing political prisoners, would push the reconciliation of the former rivals forward, he added.

Meanwhile, Fatah official Mahmoud Al-Aloul told Ma'an that the issue of forming a joint government had been postponed until the next meeting.

Al-Aloul, who attended the Cairo meeting, said neither Fatah or Hamas had proposed candidates to lead the new government.

He said Hamas was ready to discuss any candidate except Salam Fayyad, the current prime minister of the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority.

Previous attempts to form a unity government stalled over Fatah's nomination of Fayyad as prime minister, which met with strong opposition from Hamas.

The PA announced in July that it would hold municipal elections in the West Bank in October, and blamed Hamas for obstructing attempts to hold a vote in Gaza.

The Central Elections Committee said Hamas prevented its staff from working in Gaza by closing the committee's offices and confiscating its cars.

But Az-Zahhar told Ma'an that Hamas was ready to participate in the October elections.

At Sunday's meeting, Hamas and Fatah agreed to form committees to tackle the release of political prisoners, social reconciliation and the reopening of institutions shut down in Gaza and the West Bank following the 2007 infighting.

Az-Zahhar said the parties also agreed to form a committee to investigate killings committed during the rivalry.

The committee would work in Gaza and the West Bank to investigate the murders, he said.
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