Abbas says Hamas row hobbles Palestinian bid at U.N.

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 02, 2011 11:38 AM
Abbas says Hamas row hobbles Palestinian bid at U.N.

By Ali Sawafta

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - President Mahmoud Abbas urged Hamas on Saturday to relent in a dispute over the formation of unity government for the Palestinians, saying their bid to become a U.N. member state in September was at stake.

Abbas's Western-backed Fatah movement and Islamist Hamas formally ended their four-year feud in April but remain spilled over the president's insistence that his prime minister, Salam Fayyad, head the proposed new cabinet of political independents.

"We want to go to the United Nations united, and we have to understand, and Hamas and others have to understand, that this government isn't a nationalist government -- it is a technocrat government," Abbas told Voice of Palestine radio.

"They (Hamas) do not understand that we are subject to very sensitive and fateful conditions. We are entering a very tough battle at the United Nations and they are thinking in terms of 'this minister is for us, and that minister is for you'."

Many Palestinians want factions to close ranks for the U.N. assembly in September, where their lobbying to be recognized as sovereign in lands Israel captured in the 1967 war with Egypt and Jordan looks set to win wide -- if symbolic -- support.

The United States has made clear it would veto any such resolution brought to the U.N. Security Council, denying Palestinians statehood status. But the deliberations will likely ramp up foreign pressure on Israel to compromise in peace talks.

Fatah insists the president can nominate his own prime minister and officials say in private that Abbas is eager to keep Fayyad, a respected former World Bank economist, to allay Western concerns over allying with Hamas.

Hamas, which is shunned by the West for spurning permanent coexistence with the Jewish state and having seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, wants a new figurehead for government and has been dismissive of the moves at the United Nations.

"I told Hamas and others that Fayyad was simply a man of sufficient experience, and that he has been a prime minister and a minister of finance for years and that he was the right man for this stage," said Abbas, whose administration currently holds sway only in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

"I want a government that pushes me forward, not one that takes me backward," he added, calling on Hamas to continue with the inter-factional negotiations. "We will pursue our efforts and we will not say reconciliation has reached a dead end."

(Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Dan Williams; Editing by Michael Roddy)