Abbas to head interim govt, Palestinian official says

DOHA — Rival Palestinian factions have agreed to name president Mahmoud Abbas as head of an interim government to oversee preparations for presidential and legislative elections, a Palestinian official said Monday.

"An agreement was reached on appointing Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister until elections are held," the official, who is participating in the talks, told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal met on Sunday in the Qatari capital to finalize issues arising from a reconciliation agreement signed by the two factions last April.

They are expected to meet again on Monday, with a formal announcement expected later in the day.

The official said the Islamist Hamas and Abbas' secular Fatah movement had agreed that the "national consensus government will be made up of independents and technocrats and they will be responsible for overseeing the elections."

He did not say when the elections would take place, but under the terms of the reconciliation deal, parliamentary and presidential elections are both to be held by May.

Hamas, meanwhile, has confirmed that Abbas will be named premier, according to a statement published on a website affiliated with the group.

"We have reached initial agreement" on Abbas' appointment, the statement said, citing an unidentified Hamas official.

Another Palestinian official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP that the parties agreed to hold a meeting with "all other Palestinian political factions" in Cairo on 18 February, when Abbas' appointment "will be endorsed."

"That's when we'll set the date for the parliamentary and presidential elections," he said.

Among other major issues to be decided in Cairo are elections for the Palestinian National Council, the legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which does not include Hamas, the official said.

Implementation of the deal has been delayed several times despite repeated meetings between the two parties, but on Sunday they agreed to move speedily ahead with elections.

"We agreed on the importance of holding the elections quickly … and removing any obstacles that might delay the polls," said Fatah spokesperson Azzam al-Ahmad, who is with Abbas in Doha.

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