ABBAS CLOSES PARLIAMENT – Israel and US pledge full support

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Hamas yesterday condemned as an illegal ‘coup’ the formation by decree of an ‘emergency government’ by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Hamas said Abbas had suspended a number of articles in the Palestinian basic law that ‘disallow him of pursuing his wrong steps in forming an emergency government without approval from the PLC (Palestine Legislative Council).’

These include article 66 of the basic law, which ‘obliges the new premier to call for a session for the PLC in order to get its confidence before he and his cabinet are authorised to assume duties’, added Hamas.

Hamas issued its statement after Abbas swore in a new ‘emergency cabinet’ headed by former World Bank employee and IMF representative Salam Fayyad.

Abbas also decreed the outlawing of the Hamas Executive Force and ‘other Hamas militias’.

Hamas said: ‘By suspending those binding articles, Abbas transgressed the PA basic law and violated its basic articles in order to fit his own desire.’

Hamas spokesman Dr Sami Abu Zuhri in the Gaza Strip said the ‘unpatriotic and illegitimate’ government ‘will fail in imposing itself on the Palestinian people in the West Bank because the Palestinian street couldn’t be ruled in such a wrong manner as there are big forces like Hamas in the region.’

Commenting on Abbas’ decrees of dissolving the PA unity government and outlawing the PA interior ministry’s executive force, Zuhri charged that Abbas was implementing an ‘Israeli-American scheme to topple and isolate the Hamas Movement.

‘The only legitimacy it can pride itself on is the acknowledgment of the American administration and the Israeli occupation.’

But Abu Zuhri asserted: ‘Hamas isn’t a person to be easily outlawed, it is the entire Palestinian people.’

Finally, he reiterated Hamas’ call for inter-Palestinian dialogue as the only option to bail the Palestinian people out of the current crises.

But he pointed out that Abbas had rejected many calls from Hamas leaders, Arab countries, and the Arab League to meet with the Hamas political leadership, ‘which obviously proves that he wasn’t concerned about solving the crises’.

Meanwhile, the US said there will be no obstacles to re-engaging with the new Palestinian government and Israeli officials called for steps to isolate Hamas-controlled Gaza.

Israeli premier Olmert indicated his support of Abbas’ new Cabinet and suggested it could release several hundred million dollars owed to the Palestinians.

Israeli fuel company, Dor Alon cut off all fuel supplies to Gaza except those to the electricity generating plant, in a move which it said was coordinated with the Israeli military.

Reports say the move could lead to severe shortages of petrol and cooking gas within days, unless it is reversed.

Gaza’s 1.5 million residents are already facing shortages of food and other essential supplies.

Also, Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh was quoted by Israeli radio as saying that Israeli troops had been positioned in northern Gaza near the border.

The new government took the oath of office before Abbas in the presidential compound in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The cabinet is said to be dominated by ‘independents’.

US consul-general in Jerusalem Jacob Walles said: ‘I expect that we are going to be engaged with this government.

‘I expect that early next week there will be some announcements in Washington, specifically about our assistance and about the financial regulations.’

The Arab League said it supported both Abbas and the Hamas-led Palestine Legislative Council.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad-Ali Hosseini reiterated that Hamas and Fatah should talk over national unity in line with the Palestinian interests to resolve the existing issues peacefully.

He stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported the Palestinian national unity government with participation of representatives from both Hamas and Fatah.