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Middle East

Palestinian Prime Minister resigns to allow unity government

Article published on the 2009-03-07 Latest update 2009-03-07 11:20 TU

Karzai at today's press conference(Photo: Reuters)

Karzai at today's press conference
(Photo: Reuters)

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Saturday announced that he will resign his post to prepare the way for the formation of a government of all the major Palestinian political parties. Fayyad's office says the resignation will take effect when a "govenrment of national consensus" is formed.

The main Palestinian parties agreed to launch a reconciliation process at talks in Cairo last month in the aftermath of Israel's offensive on Gaza.

"We consider that the positive climate seen in the first round of dialogue offers an opportunity that has to be exploited to put an end to divisions and as a basis on which to reach unity and reconciliation," a statement from Fayyad's office said, predicting that the unity government will be formed by the end of this month.

The Islamist Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, welcomed the declaration.

"Hamas is not sorry to see the resignation of Fayyad and his government,"  said Hamas official Fawzi Barhum. "This is the end we expected because this government is illegitimate and illegal and built on failed and mistaken policies connected to American agendas."

Fayyad took office 18 months ago, when President Mahmud Abbas fired Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh from the premiership, after fighting between Hamas and Abbas's Fatah left the Islamists in control of Gaza.

The European Union and the US list Hamas as a "terrorist organisation". On a visit to the region this week, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that Washington will have nothing to do with a government including Hamas, unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel and previous agreements with it.