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Friday, May 6, 2011     FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

Hamas, Fatah don't want West-friendly Fayad in Palestinian unity government

RAMALLAH — The proposed unity government of the Palestinian Authority is not expected to be headed by pro-Western Prime Minister Salam Fayad.


PA sources said Hamas has insisted that any unity government not contain Fayad, a former International Monetary Fund official. They said Hamas wanted to ensure that all ministers in the unity coalition were technocrats without overt relations with the United States.

"Both Fatah and Hamas don't want Fayad as prime minister," Hani Masri, a senior Fatah member involved in mediation with Hamas, said. "Nothing is impossible in politics, but so far Fayad is not the preference of either side."

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The Fatah movement has also long sought to replace Fayad, said to have been imposed on the PA by the United States and other Western donors. The 59-year-old economist, credited with reducing corruption, was believed to have been preparing to run for PA chairman.

Fayad, who is not a Fatah member, became prime minister in 2007 in an effort by the PA to demonstrate reform. As prime minister, Fayad became responsible for paying civil servants, particularly members of the Palestinian security forces.

The sources said Washington has urged PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to retain Fayad as prime minister. They said the United States has warned that the ouster of Fayad would harm the PA's credibility in the West and reduce the nearly $1 billion in annual pledges.

Hamas has offered to keep out its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, in exchange for the resignation of Fayad. But Hamas leaders said they would insist that Fayad's replacement come from the Gaza Strip.

At this point, Hamas and Fatah have not discussed candidates for the unity Cabinet. They said several Palestinians proposed for the post of prime minister include Munib Masri, who helped negotiate the reconciliation deal, and Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

"That is definitely for the parties to decide," Fayad said.

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