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Archive for Sunday, March 19, 2006

Hamas fails to attract partners

Moderates’ rejection increases chances of global isolation

March 19, 2006

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— Hamas said Saturday it had completed the formation of its government without succeeding to bring in moderate parties, a step that looked likely to only increase the chances of international isolation.

The narrow government to be presented to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a meeting today could bring on crippling economic sanctions that the World Bank has warned would devastate the poverty-stricken Palestinian territories.

Abbas will approve the Hamas government - which does not include his pragmatic Fatah Party, presidential spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. But Abbas will warn the Islamic militant group, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, that their refusal to moderate their hard-line positions could "get them into trouble," the spokesman said.

Hamas' Cabinet lineup has not been made public, but officials in the group said it would hold onto key posts including the foreign, interior and finance ministries.

Abbas was elected separately last year to a four-year term and wields considerable authority. However, he cannot impose his own Cabinet lineup on Hamas, which swept January parliament elections and controls an absolute majority in the legislature. Aides said Abbas did not want to cause a full-blown political crisis.

"Abu Mazen will not place obstacles before the Hamas government," Abu Rdeneh said, referring to the name by which Abbas is widely known.

The Palestinian parliament will not be asked to approve the new Hamas government until after Israel's March 28 election.

At a news conference Saturday, Hamas' Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh did not give details of his party's government platform or the names of the new Cabinet ministers, saying he would wait until after his meeting with Abbas to make the information public.

Israel and the international community have said they will not have contact with a Hamas-led government unless the movement recognizes Israel, accepts previous Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements and denounces violence.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said the international community must be united in demanding Hamas accept the conditions, which have U.N. backing.

"If they continue to reject the international community's benchmarks, they will find the Palestinian Authority will increasingly become a pariah regime in the international community," Regev said.

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