Fatah says it won't join Hamas coalition

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 30-Jan-06 | Source: The Daily Star (Lebanon Edition)

Movement plans to concentrate on internal reform

Deputies from Fatah confirmed Sunday the beleaguered faction would not join Hamas in a coalition government. After meetings with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, scheduled to formally ask Hamas early next week to form a new government, deputies said it had been agreed that they would sit on the opposition benches despite calls by Hamas for a "political partnership."

An MP and former Cabinet minister, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Fatah would instead concentrate on internal reforms.

"Fatah must take time to reform itself and be a constructive force from the opposition benches," he said.

Abbas insists he will continue striving for a negotiated settlement to the conflict with the Jewish state.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Interior Minister Nasser Youssef sought to reassure security services, pledging there would be no purge of the forces.

"It is important and essential to maintain the security services' cohesion during this difficult period," Youssef was quoted as saying by the Palestinian news agency WAFA.

"They will stay as they are and we will not allow any violation ... as long as they are under the authority of President Mahmoud Abbas," he told a meeting of police in Gaza City.

But Youssef rejected a call from Hamas' exiled supreme leader, Khaled Meshaal, for the establishment of a new Palestinian army.

"We will not allow the creation of a military force in parallel to the security bodies in this country," Youssef said.

Armed followers of Fatah piled further pressure on the Palestinian faction's beleaguered leaders Sunday by demanding they resign following their disastrous election defeat.

Members of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades called a news conference to demand the Fatah leadership pay the price for the election day meltdown.

The local Fatah leadership in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah also announced their resignation, urging their national superiors to follow suit.

Addressing journalists in Gaza City, Al-Aqsa spokesman Abu Mohammad said: "We ask the central committee to resign immediately and announce an emergency committee for the movement."

He called for "all the armed wings of the Al-Aqsa Brigades to be under one command."

The Palestinian central elections commission made a slight revision Sunday to the result of last week's general election, reducing by two the number of seats won by Hamas.

The elections commission said in a statement that the final official result now showed Hamas had won 74 rather than 76 seats in the election, while the former ruling Fatah faction's tally was revised upward from 43 to 45.

Separately, Israeli acting leader Ehud Olmert and German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a joint pledge Sunday not to deal with Hamas until it recognised the Jewish state's right to exist and renounced violence.

"Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians can only be possible if they [Hamas] meet three conditions, the renunciation of terror and violence, recognition of Israel's right to exist and they accept all existing international agreements," said Merkel.

Asked if there was any chance of Germany holding talks with Hamas before it met the conditions, she replied: "Absolutely not."

Merkel is due to meet with Abbas in the West Bank town of Ramallah Monday but not with any Hamas leaders.

U.S. President George W. Bush said Friday that Washington, which handed over $363 million last year, would cut its subsidies if Hamas does not renounce the use of violence and annul its founding charter's objective of destroying Israel.

The EU, which gave $1.5 billion during the last five years,

has also warned that it will only continue its support of the Palestinian economy on condition that the incoming government is in favour of peace with Israel.

"The Palestinians need around $100 million to pay government employees which form the backbone of the regime, but nobody knows where they are going to find the money," said a European diplomat.