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Hamas official: Reconciliation talks beset by mistrust

Jan. 17, 2012 10:41 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 18, 2012 1:25 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A senior Hamas official has told Ma'an that ongoing talks to implement the party's reconciliation agreement with Fatah are undermined by low confidence between the factions.

Both parties want to achieve national unity but the reconciliation deal, signed in Cairo last May, is plagued by a lack of trust, the Hamas official told Ma'an on Monday on condition of anonymity.

The deal aimed to end four years of divided government by forming a joint administration that would pave the way for elections. When the parties failed to agree on a candidate to lead the unity cabinet, they decided to proceed to elections without joining the governments.

The Hamas leader told Ma'an the failure to form a joint administration has made implementing terms of the agreement difficult.

A united government would have been a turning point in the division, the Hamas official said.

The West Bank and Gaza have been governed by rival administrations since 2007 when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip, a year after it won elections. Fatah dominates the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

After Hamas and Fatah party chiefs met in November to kick start the stalled deal, several cross-party committees were formed to implement terms of the agreement, including the release of political detainees held by both sides.

Talks between the parties and the work of the reconciliation committees are mismanaged and lack follow-up, the Hamas official told Ma'an.

He said Fatah leader and President Mahmoud Abbas is distracted by talks with Israel.

Hamas opposes negotiations with Israel, and party leaders in Gaza warned it would harm the agreement with Fatah. But Hamas chief-in-exile Khalid Mashaal said while his party rejected negotiations, but that talks would not affect reconciliation.

No Hamas presidential candidate

Party leaders have indicated that elections will be held in May under the deal, the first national poll since Hamas gained a parliamentary majority in 2006.

The official said Hamas would not offer a candidate for the presidential elections because of the ongoing occupation, the situation in the West Bank and the party's tense relations with the international community.

The US and EU -- key donors to the Palestinian Authority -- consider Hamas a terrorist organization.

Despite the recent success of Islamist parties in some Arab countries, the situation is different in Palestine and Hamas is not in a position to run in presidential elections, he said. He said Hamas and Fatah would agree on a candidate for the presidency.

Asked about upcoming internal elections in the Hamas movement, the official said politburo chief Khalid Mashaal would step down and probably be replaced by his deputy Mousa Abu Marzouq.

Mashaal cannot run again to head the politburo as he has served the party's limit of two terms in office.
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