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Abbas to head Palestinian unity government

Fatah and Hamas agree to have Mahmoud Abbas head an interim government until elections are held in a deal brokered by the emir of Qatar.

DOHA // The two rival Palestinian camps have agreed that the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, will head an interim unity government that is to lead them to elections.

The announcement was made jointly today by Mr Abbas and Khaled Mashaal, the Hamas chief. 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 Mr Abbas's initial choice of Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of his Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

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

A Palestinian official told the AFP news agency that Hamas and Mr Abbas's 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.

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

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