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Current Palestinian PM to head new unity gov’t — source

By AFP - May 22,2014 - Last updated at May 22,2014

RAMALLAH/OCCUPIED JERUSALEM — Palestinian premier Rami Hamdallah is to head the consensus government to be formed under a deal with Hamas to end seven years of rival administrations in the West Bank and Gaza, an official said Thursday.

“The government is nearly ready, and Rami Hamdallah will be prime minister,” the official close to the reconciliation negotiations told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas “informed Mr Hamdallah yesterday [Wednesday] that he would head the government”, the official said.

Hamdallah is the prime minister of the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. Hamas has a rival prime minister in Gaza — Ismail Haniyeh.

Hamas “had no objection” to the decision, said Bassem Naim, an adviser to Haniya.

A senior Fateh official, Azzam Al Ahmed, is due in Gaza on Sunday to “finalise consultations” on the government, Naim said.

On April 23, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, dominated by Abbas’ Fateh Party, signed a surprise reconciliation deal aimed at forging a unified administration.

Under the deal, the two sides were to form an “independent government” of technocrats, headed by Abbas, paving the way for long-delayed elections.

Hamas, which does not recognise Israel, has ruled Gaza since it expelled Fateh after a week of deadly clashes in 2007.

The April reconciliation agreement incensed Israel, putting the final nail in the coffin of faltering US-led peace talks.

The new government will still need the approval of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament, which was elected in 2006 before the deadly fighting of the following year, Haniya said last week.

Both the European Union and the United States have said repeatedly that they will have no dealings with any government that involves Hamas until the Islamist group renounces violence and recognises Israel and past peace agreements.

Meanwhile, the European Union has banned the import of poultry and eggs from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including annexed East Jerusalem, Israeli news website Walla reported on Thursday.

The 28-nation bloc informed the Israeli agriculture ministry that it recognised its veterinary supervision only within Israel’s pre-1967 borders and that settlement poultry produce, therefore, did not meet public health regulations for import, the website said.

An EU official in Tel Aviv confirmed the report and said the ruling was issued “in the spirit” of guidelines which came into force in January prohibiting dealings with settlement-based firms and bodies.

The settlements are illegal under international law and their continued expansion in the face of EU and US criticism was a prime factor in the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

“This issue, like many other trade issues that come up in the framework of trade relations between Israel and the European Union, will be addressed within the framework of the ongoing professional dialogue between the parties,” Walla quoted an agriculture ministry spokesperson as saying.

The ministry declined to comment when contacted by AFP.

“It should be noted that poultry and poultry-related products from the settlements account for under 5 per cent of all such products in Israel, so that the new European guideline will not have much practical impact from an economic standpoint,” Walla reported.

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