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Monday, March 13, 2006

US tells moderates to stay out of Hamas cabinet

The Financial Times of London reports that the United States has told 'moderate Palestinians' not to take positions in a Hamas-led 'Palestinian Authority.' For those of you who do not own a subscription to the Financial Times, I found the same article here.

US officials are exerting pressure on moderate Palestinian politicians not to serve in a Hamas-led government and have warned that Washington would sever existing contacts with them if they did.

According to Palestinians familiar with Hamas’s current efforts to put together a national unity government following its election victory in January, Washington has targeted a number of independents the Islamist movement was considering for cabinet posts.

The Bush administration favours a situation in which Hamas would be forced to govern alone and would bear the full consequences of failures that could be exacerbated by a cut-off of western aid to the Palestinian Authority.

As well as discouraging the defeated Fatah party from joining a coalition with Hamas, US officials have privately contacted leading independents to urge them to stay out of the government.

It was not clear to what extent the administration was threatening sanctions against individuals or whether the administration would have legal grounds on which to deny them future entry to the US.

They were said to include Mustafa Barghouti, leader of the Palestine National Initiative which won two seats in January, and Ziad Abu Amr, an independent who won a seat in Gaza with Hamas backing.

Both men have strong international ties. Mr Barghouti heads the western-funded Palestine Medical Relief Committee and Mr Abu Amr, who has a doctorate from Georgetown University, is president of the Palestinian Council for Foreign Relations.


A broad-based coalition looked increasingly unlikely yesterday as Fatah held out in the face of Hamas’s efforts to persuade the defeated party to join it in government. Leaders of the two groups held inconclusive talks in Gaza City this week amid speculation that Ismail Haniya, Hamas’s prime minister-designate, would ask Mahmoud Abbas, PA president, for a further two weeks to form a government.

That would take the deadline to within a few days of Israel’s March 28 general election.

In what analysts suggested was an attempt by Hamas to pressure other factions, a 14-member cabinet list was leaked this week indicating Hamas was prepared to govern virtually alone if it failed to find coalition partners.

The list included eight Hamas members, a handful of technocrats, an Islamic independent and only one name from another faction – Khalda Jarrar of the secular, left-wing Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as minister of women’s affairs.

It did not include a nominee for the crucial post of finance minister. Palestinian officials said it was still possible Hamas would ask Salam Fayyad, former IMF official, to resume the position he formerly held in the Fatah government. Mr Fayyad said after his election to parliament in January that he did not plan to join the new government.


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