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Hamas expects to head new Palestinian govt
Updated: 2006-02-08 09:59

A leader of the Islamist Hamas group said on Tuesday it was very likely that one of its members would become Palestinian prime minister after winning parliamentary elections last month.

Hamas officials are holding talks in Egypt about the shape of a new Palestinian government following the group's landslide victory in the January 25 poll.

The United States and the European Union, which both list Hamas as a terrorist organization, have threatened to cut off aid to any government run by Hamas unless the group renounces violence and abandons its commitment to Israel's destruction.

Hamas says it wants to form a coalition including the defeated Fatah faction, which long dominated Palestinian politics.

Hamas expects to head new Palestinian govt
Palestinian supporters of Hamas shout slogans during a protest against cartoons published in several European newspapers, in front of the Palestinian parliament in Gaza Strip, February 7, 2006.[Reuters]
Asked whether a Hamas member would become the new prime minister, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Reuters in Cairo: "This is highly expected." But it was too soon to talk about names, he said.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, also known as Abu Mazen, is a member of Fatah, which was heavily defeated in the vote. He has yet to formally ask Hamas, which won 74 seats in the 132-seat parliament, to form a government.

"Given that Hamas is the biggest bloc in the parliament, President Abu Mazen will authorize someone from inside Hamas to form a government," Haniyeh said.

Hamas says Fatah has yet to give it an answer on whether it will join the government. After the election, Fatah gunmen protested against any power-sharing with Hamas.

Hamas leader Khalil Abu Laila said his group had compiled names for a government in case other factions did not take part.

"We will hold talks with the factions, including Fatah, on forming a national unity government and we hope to succeed," he told Reuters.

"But if we failed to do so, we have a B plan ready. We do not want to waste time and we want to speed up the formation of government to avoid any constitutional vacuum," he said.

Asked if Hamas could form a government without Fatah or other Palestinian political forces, Haniyeh said: "It can, but it wants to strengthen participation (of others)."

Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar said the door would be left open for other factions to join the government later on if they did not take part from the start.


Abbas has said the new government must respect interim peace deals made by the Palestinian Authority with Israel. Hamas said it would never recognize Israel but might be willing to negotiate terms for a temporary truce with the Jewish state.

Hamas has urged foreign donors to maintain aid but says it could find other sources of funding. Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who met Hamas leaders on Monday, said last week that Iran would step in to fill any financial gap.

Haniyeh said Hamas had not received official offers of assistance from Iran. "There is nothing defined, but all that we have heard from the Arab and Islamic states, officially and from the public, is reassuring," he said.

Hamas leaders have indicated the group might establish a government of technocrats so as not to compromise the aid that props up the near bankrupt Palestinian Authority.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, whose country has frequently brokered Palestinian faction talks, last week urged Abbas to stay in his post until the end of his term in 2009.

Exiled Hamas politburo head Khaled Meshal said the group had assured Egypt that Hamas would cooperate with Abbas.

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