Hamas' unity deal delay slated

2009-10-19 11:17

Cairo - An Egyptian official accused the Palestinian Hamas movement of bad faith over its refusal to sign up to a unity deal with the Palestinian leadership on schedule, a state-owned daily reported on Sunday.

"Egypt was surprised by Hamas's procrastination when it said it could not come to Cairo on the planned date," the Al-Ahram newspaper quoted the official as saying.

"The delay to reconciliation and the fact that Hamas has stirred up such a terrifying atmosphere in the Palestinian territories shows that Hamas lacks good faith and has its own agenda," the unnamed official said.

Egypt announced on Friday that its mediators had indefinitely postponed their deadline for Hamas to sign the unity deal at the Islamists' request.

A Hamas official said the Islamist movement delayed sending a delegation on Sunday to give its response to the proposed agreement because Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who negotiated it, was out of the country.

Suleiman had been accompanying President Hosni Mubarak on a European tour that lasted several days, and returned on Sunday afternoon.

The Egyptian official added Hamas had previously agreed to the unity deal, which mediators drafted after consulting the rival factions.

'Hamas sacrifices historic reconcilliation'

Senior Hamas official Mohammed Nasr blamed what he said was an inconsistency between the Egyptian plan and what Hamas and the other factions had agreed on.

"All that we ask is that what we had agreed on is consistent with the Egyptian paper," the Damascus-based leader told Al-Jazeera television. "We do not want to add anything new."

The agreement provides for the holding of presidential and parliamentary elections in June next year and the reinstatement of 3 000 members of the former Fatah-led security apparatus in Gaza.

Hamas said the delay was also partly the result of differences with president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah movement over the Goldstone commission's report on the devastating Israeli offensive on Gaza at the turn of the year.

"Is it just that Hamas sacrifices an historic reconciliation over a report?" the Egyptian official told Al-Ahram.

Hinting at Egypt's growing impatience with the Islamists, he said: "The brothers in Hamas must know that Egypt is a heavyweight and that they cannot treat it like they treat other Palestinian factions."

The agreement would be implemented by a joint committee appointed by presidential decree and made up of members of Fatah, Hamas and other factions.

Persistent tensions between Hamas and Fatah came to the boil in June 2007 when the Islamists ousted their rivals from the Gaza Strip after a week of deadly street clashes, cleaving the Palestinians into two hostile camps.