Fayyad may quit for sake of Palestinian unity
By Ali Sawafta
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad signaled on Monday he is ready to step aside to help reconcile the two rival factions of the Palestinian national movement and pave the way for presidential and parliamentary elections.
The departure of the U.S.-educated former World Bank economist, 59, would be a concession by President Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the mainly secular Fatah movement which is dominant in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to his Islamist rivals Hamas, who control the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.
Abbas will call in a speech on Wednesday for a government of independent experts to prepare for the elections, presidential adviser Nemir Hammad told Reuters.
This scenario was part of a reconciliation deal signed last April but never implemented. Elections were last held in 2006.
Abbas is also due to hold face-to-face talks in Cairo this month with his arch-rival, the exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. One official said the meeting could bring reconciliation closer "should Abbas abandon his commitment to Fayyad" as his candidate to head the caretaker government.
Fayyad, appointed by Abbas in 2007, is credited with revitalizing the economy and building institutions needed to set the Palestinian Authority on the path to full statehood. But Hamas, which accuses him of helping Israel to blockade the Gaza Strip, has never recognized him.
"I say again it is time to end division," Fayyad told the Al-Quds newspaper. "I call upon all factions and political parties to agree on a new prime minister. I was never an obstacle to the implementation of the reconciliation and I refuse to be used as a pretext for continuing the split."
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