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Official: Hamdallah to head caretaker govt until Aug. 10

June 23, 2013 9:19 P.M. (Updated: June 25, 2013 9:22 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Rami Hamdallah will stay on as head of a caretaker Palestinian Authority government for the next five weeks, a member of Fatah's Central Committee said Sunday.

Jamal Muhaisen told Ma'an that the caretaker government will continue until August 10, in which time it is hoped that a unity government can be formed comprising Fatah and its Islamist rival, Hamas.

If a national unity government is not formed before August 10, the "leadership will look for alternatives," Muhaisen said, without providing further details.

Muheisan denied rumors that Fatah's Central Committee had demanded that one of its members become prime minister, insisting that Abbas favored Hamdallah to stay on to head a caretaker government.

Earlier Sunday, Abbas accepted the resignation of Hamdallah after just over two weeks on the job.

It was the second time in 10 weeks that a Palestinian Authority prime minister had tendered his resignation over a power dispute, and Abbas now has 35 days to find a replacement.

At the heart of the crisis is a dispute over the division of responsibilities within government.

Hamdallah, who was named to the post of premier by Abbas on June 2 and sworn in at the helm of a new government four days later, had been incensed by the president's decision to name the two deputies, sources in his office said.

During his talks with Abbas on Friday, Hamdallah had made clear he wanted "clear and defined powers as prime minister and for his deputies, based on the law, so his authority is not encroached on," an official said.

Ziad Abu Amr and Mohammed Mustafa were sworn in as deputy premiers on June 6, the first time the post had been created in the Palestinian government.

Mustafa, who heads the Palestine Investment Fund and was himself considered as a candidate for the top job after the resignation of Salam Fayyad as premier in April, was handed the role of economic adviser.

Hassan Khreishe, deputy speaker of parliament, said Hamdallah's resignation highlighted a major problem within the political system.

"There is a major crisis within the Palestinian political regime and this shows just how big it is," he told AFP.

"Hamdallah was brave to demand his rights under the Basic Law and he resigned after he discovered he has no authority, because he has a deputy for political issues and a deputy for economic issues, so what does he have if both of these are taken from him?"

"It is not important who comes next. Whoever comes after Hamdallah won't solve the crisis. There is no institution which oversees what the presidency does," he said, saying the regime would be run "by Abbas alone."

A similar reaction came from Hamas, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum calling for an overhaul of the political system.

"This reflects the depth of the real crisis facing the Palestinian Authority's institutions as a result of the many power centers and power struggles," he said.

"This resignation should draw a line under this phase of deterioration in the Palestinian Authority's institutions and mark a phase of rebuilding based on national and democratic values.

"This will not be achieved until the full implementation of the Cairo agreement, including the formation of a government of national consensus," he said.

He was referring to a clause in an as-yet unfulfilled 2011 unity agreement between Hamas and Fatah.

AFP contributed to this report
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