Abbas set to accept Hamas cabinet


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is to meet with Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniya this evening to approve a new cabinet.

Hamas will present its cabinet to the Palestinian President despite failing to persuade any rival factions to join a coalition government.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine became the latest party to turn down an offer to join the government.

Hamas' inability to attract partners and its intention to appoint Hamas loyalists to senior ministerial posts could bolster US and Israeli efforts to isolate the new government.

Prime Minister-designate Ismail Haniyeh is expected to give the names to Abbas at around 9 p.m. (7.00 Irish time)  in Gaza, later than previously scheduled, officials said.

Abbas said he expected parliament to convene soon for a vote of confidence in the Hamas government.

"Today I will meet brother Ismail Haniyeh and we will see the (formation) of the cabinet. After that the legal procedures will take place such as going to (parliament) and the swearing in," Abbas told a news conference at the Rafah terminal on the Egyptian border.

Aides to Abbas said he would not reject the cabinet even though he wants Hamas to change its government agenda, which calls for resistance against Israel by any means.

Mr Erekat said Abbas could exercise his constitutional right to fire the prime minister in the event of a crisis, such as a freezing of international aid.

Haniyeh has declined to identify any ministers but Hamas sources said its own members would head key portfolios, including the interior, foreign affairs and finance posts.

Hamas members are expected to make up nearly half the 24-member cabinet. The rest would comprise independents and technocrats, including one Christian.

Abbas aides said they expected the confidence vote after the Israeli election. Hamas has an outright majority in parliament.

It is not clear how much of the estimated $1 billion a year the Palestinians get in foreign aid might be withheld once a Hamas government is in power. Hamas has vowed to replace it with funds from Iran and other Muslim states.

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

Another Hamas leader, Saeed Seyam, would be interior minister. Omar Abdel-Razeq, a West Bank economics professor and Hamas election official, would take the finance portfolio.