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Hamas Presents Proposed Cabinet

From Times Wire Services

Hamas put forth a proposed government Sunday, giving itself key ministries after failing to persuade more moderate parties to join in a coalition.

Incoming Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh presented Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas with a 24-member Cabinet made up chiefly of Hamas activists. Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar would be the new foreign minister. The list also includes one woman and one Christian.

Catching Hamas by surprise, Abbas withheld immediate acceptance of the government, saying he would first show the lineup to the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization at a session to be convened within 48 hours.

The PLO Executive Committee is expected to take several days before voting on the list.

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“After that, there will be a procedure to present the government to parliament for discussion and approval,” Abbas told a news conference, giving no date.

Hamas’ plan to appoint party loyalists to top ministerial posts greatly complicates the prospect of negotiation with Israel and jeopardizes financial support from the U.S. and European governments, which have insisted that Hamas abandon its call for the destruction of the Jewish state, forswear violence and honor existing agreements with Israel. Hamas has maimed and killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings.

Hamas swept to victory in Jan. 25 parliamentary elections, but despite nearly two months of negotiations it was unable to persuade another faction to join.

Last week, a World Bank report warned of economic disaster in Gaza if aid were cut off.

Haniyeh said he was optimistic his Cabinet would win approval. “I can say that the indications are positive toward constitutional stability on the Palestinian platform,” he said.

The list also includes Said Siam, a Hamas leader in Gaza, as interior minister in charge of some of the security forces. Ten of the ministers would be from Gaza and 14 from the West Bank.

With Palestinians facing severe shortages of bread, milk and other foods in Gaza, U.S. officials called an emergency meeting Sunday at the home of the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Richard Jones, and brokered a compromise with Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in a 2-month-old standoff over a crossing between Israel and Gaza near the Egyptian border.

Afterward, Jones told reporters, “We have agreed that the crossing from Karem Shalom will open [Monday] for imports of food and other essential humanitarian products from Egypt.”

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