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Hamas on course to govern despite PLO objections

Written by: Staff

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Mar 22 (Reuters) The Palestine Liberation Organisation rejected Hamas's governing platform today but President Mahmoud Abbas said he would present the Islamic group's proposed cabinet to parliament nonetheless.

''There will be no constitutional crisis, God willing,'' Abbas told reporters after the PLO's Executive Committee met at his request. ''There will be meetings soon with parliament so the government and its programme can be presented to it.'' Samir Ghosheh, a committee member, said Abbas would meet parliament speaker Aziz Dweik later in the day.

Chafing at Hamas's refusal to recognise the PLO as the sole representative of the Palestinian people, the committee called the group's political agenda unacceptable and said that along with Abbas, it would send a letter asking for changes.

''They (Hamas) can go to the legislative council. The cabinet can be approved but it would be isolated by the Arab and the international community,'' said Taysir Khaled, a member of the committee.

Abbas on Sunday withheld his acceptance of a cabinet line-up presented by Hamas prime minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh and said he would ask the Executive Committee to debate the January 25 election victor's platform ahead of legislative ratification.

Hamas, dedicated to Israel's destruction and opposed to the PLO's interim peace deals with the Jewish state, announced its government after all other Palestinian movements refused to join.

Some factions cited Hamas's refusal to recognise the primacy of the PLO, long the voice of the Palestinian people and their aspirations for statehood. The PLO had signed all interim peace agreements with the government of Israel.

In his remarks to reporters, Abbas held out the hope that Hamas might still amend its policies and give the PLO pride of place.

''Nobody can reject or accept the PLO from which the Palestinian Authority was created,'' he said.

ARMED RESISTANCE In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the PLO Executive Committee had no right to interfere in the formation of a government.

''We are awaiting the next step from President Mahmoud Abbas and we are confident he will respect the will of the Palestinian people and present the government to the legislative council,'' Abu Zuhri said.

Hamas leader-in-exile Khaled Meshaal, in an interview with Reuters in Abu Dhabi, said the group would continue to pursue what he called ''armed resistance'' against Israeli occupation.

Fatah officials had said they expected Abbas not to spark any constitutional crisis with Hamas now, but to reserve the right to dismiss a Hamas prime minister down the line if he concludes the group is violating Palestinian national interests.

Israel and the United States have pledged to isolate Hamas unless it recognises the Jewish state, renounces violence and accepts prior peace deals.

The Palestinian Authority could also face cuts in vital foreign aid once a Hamas-led government is in place.


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