Abbas Delays Installing New Palestinian Cabinet

President Mahmoud Abbas has postponed a plan to swear in a new Palestinian government, Palestinian officials said on Wednesday.

He had planned to unveil a new cabinet under Prime Minister Salam Fayyad in a move that could further complicate Egyptian mediation aimed at healing a rift between Abbas’s Fatah faction and Islamist Hamas, rulers of the Gaza Strip.

A Palestinian official said the postponement was a result of disagreement between Fayyad, a technocrat with strong backing from Western donors, and Fatah members on the cabinet line-up.

Fayyad tried to resign in March amid criticism from Fatah members that he had been running Palestinian finances without consulting them. He stayed on as prime minister at Abbas’s request.

Abbas said on Monday that the new government would be sworn in within 48 hours.

The plan was designed to bring Fatah members into the government after they expressed dissatisfaction with Fayyad’s management of his cabinet of independent technocrats.

Abbas asked Fayyad, a former IMF and World Bank official, to form a government in June 2007 after Hamas seized control in Gaza by routing Abbas’s forces, splitting Palestinian ranks.

Abbas responded to the takeover by disbanding a Hamas-led unity government, and the rift between the groups remains wide.

The two factions have held several rounds of talks in Egypt trying to cobble together a unity government, with an initial target of March 31. But negotiations were adjourned last month to May 16.

Earlier on Wednesday officials said the formation of a new Palestinian cabinet had been delayed by several days due to Pope Benedict XVI’s visit and President Abbas’s planned trip to Syria.

(Agencies)

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