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President to meet Hamdallah over PM's resignation

June 21, 2013 2:39 P.M. (Updated: June 22, 2013 1:24 P.M.)
RAMALLAH (Ma'an) -- President Mahmoud Abbas will meet newly-appointed Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah on Friday to discuss his resignation, officials said.

Sources in Tulkarem, where Hamdallah lives, told Ma'an that the premier would meet Abbas at the president's office in Ramallah at 6 p.m.

High-level government officials said the presidency had made intensive efforts to persuade Hamdallah not to resign but that the attempts were unsuccessful.

Tayib Abdul-Rahim, Abbas' top aide, and intelligence chief Majid Faraj left Hamdallah's home in Anabta on Thursday evening after more than three hours of talks trying to convince him to reconsider.

A Ma’an reporter in Tulkarem said the meeting ended without either side making a statement.

If he insists on his resignation, the president, under law, must appoint a new premier.

Hamdallah left his office in Ramallah at noon Thursday in a private car after offering his resignation, knowledgeable sources told Ma'an.

They said the premier submitted his resignation to Abbas following a heated argument between his deputies Muhammad Mustafa and Ziad Abu Amr.

A new 25-member cabinet under Hamdallah's leadership was sworn in on June 6 and, notably, included the appointment of two deputy prime ministers, Ziad Abu Amr and Mohammed Mustafa.

Mustafa, who heads the Palestine Investment Fund and was handed the role of economic adviser, was initially tipped as a possible successor to Fayyad.

When the new government was sworn in, it was he who held the first news conference following its initial cabinet meeting on June 11, not Hamdallah, in a move that raised a few eyebrows.

Hamdallah, an independent considered close to Abbas's ruling Fatah faction who was head of Al-Najah University in Nablus and secretary general of the Central Election Commission, quickly pledged after his nomination to follow a similar path to Fayyad and said he would leave the government line-up largely unchanged.

And he made clear he would quickly step aside in the summer after the planned formation of a government of national unity comprising Abbas's Fatah and its Islamist rival, Hamas.

Fayyad resigned in mid-April after months of difficult relations with Abbas which hit a crisis over the resignation of finance minister Nabil Qassis, which the premier accepted but the president did not.

That power struggle resulted in Fayyad stepping down but staying on as caretaker prime minister upon Abbas's request, with his term drawing to a close on June 2.

Fayyad was widely respected by the international community for building a sound institutional framework for the Palestinian Authority, and his resignation sparked concern over who would take up his mantle.

But Washington and Europe welcomed the appointment of Hamdallah, who on Wednesday had held his first meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Congratulating him on his new position, Ashton pledged to continue European economic support and also support for the peace process.

"I am very much looking forward to working with you and, as I said, I wish you every success," she told him, in remarks communicated by a spokesman.

Fayyad's departure came at a difficult time for Washington, as US Secretary of State John Kerry seeks to revive peace talks after a nearly three-year hiatus.

During his last visit at the end of May, Kerry pledged to push through a $4-billion plan to develop the Palestinian economy.

He is to return to the region next week to continue pushing the two sides to find a way back to direct negotiations which broke down in September 2010, just weeks after they were relaunched.

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