Abbas To Head Palestinian Unity Government

Published February 6, 2012 9:54AM (EST)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — The two rival Palestinian camps have agreed that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will head an interim unity government that is to lead them to elections.

The announcement was made jointly on Monday by the Western-backed Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, chief of the Islamic militant Hamas. It marked a major step forward in the rivals' attempt to reconcile, after more than four years of separate governments in the West Bank and Gaza. The deal was brokered by the emir of Qatar.

Disagreement over who was to head an interim government had delayed implementation of a unity deal, reached in principle last year. Hamas strongly opposed Abbas' initial choice of Salam Fayyad, the head of his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — A senior Hamas political official says breakthrough deals have been reached with the rival Palestinian Authority on a reconciliation pact.

The message from Izzat Rishiq was posted on his Facebook page Monday shortly before a planned news conference in Qatar with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal.

Rishiq says a "major breakthrough" was reached, without specifying what it was. Talks have focused on forming a future unity government and releasing political prisoners in the West Bank, which is controlled by Abbas.

Hamas officials had previously suggested that Abbas would become prime minister in an interim Palestinian government that would prepare for general elections in Hamas-controlled Gaza and the West Bank.

By Salon Staff

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