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Hamas says cabinet to be finalised tomorrow

Written by: Staff
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GAZA, Mar 17 (Reuters) Hamas will finalise its cabinet tomorrow and hopes to soon submit the names to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a spokesman for the Islamic militant group said today.

''The government will be ready tomorrow with its formation and its ministers but we will not announce the government before we hand it over to the president,'' spokesman Salah al-Bardaweel said.

Hamas, which trounced Abbas's long-dominant Fatah movement in January elections, has been unable to reach agreement with any rival Palestinian factions on forming a coalition and has said it was prepared to form a government without them.

Its problems winning over more moderate factions could make it harder to govern, as well as bolster efforts by Israel and the United States to isolate the government Hamas is forming.

The list of ministers would be submitted to Abbas tomorrow if he went ahead with a visit to the Gaza Strip for talks with Hamas officials, Bardaweel said.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a top Hamas leader in Gaza whom Israel has tried to assassinate, would be appointed foreign minister, Hamas sources said.

Another Hamas leader, Saeed Seyam, would become interior minister, giving him control over three Palestinian security agencies, the sources added.

Two parliamentary blocs informed Hamas yesterday they would not join the Hamas government. Several larger factions, including Fatah, were expected to turn Hamas down as well.

Abbas has demanded Hamas abide by interim peace deals and respect obligations which include recognition of Israel.

Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction, has so far rejected such calls.

Abbas had given Hamas two weeks to clarify its position before it presents an administration to parliament for a confidence vote.

Hamas has an absolute majority in parliament.

Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000 but has largely adhered to a ceasefire forged a year ago. It has said talks with Israel would be a waste of time.

REUTERS KD PM1408

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