New Palestinian cabinet to be sworn in

2012-05-16 15:02

Ramallah - A reshuffled Palestinian cabinet in the West Bank is to be sworn in on Wednesday, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas said.

"We will be forming a new Palestinian government this evening," Abbas said at a conference of Arab athletes on Wednesday afternoon.

The new government has been on the cards since the previous cabinet resigned in February 2011, shortly after the Palestinian leadership announced it would hold legislative and presidential elections "in the coming months".

Abbas had tasked prime minister Salam Fayyad with forming a new government, but the process was put on ice after the surprise April announcement of a reconciliation deal between Abbas's Fatah movement and its Islamist rival Hamas.

The agreement called for the creation of an interim cabinet of independents selected by the two factions which would prepare for elections that were rescheduled to happen by May 2012.

But the deal has largely stalled, leaving the revamped government on hold and elections indefinitely postponed.

Possible changes

"If we have an agreement with Hamas tomorrow or afterwards, this government will not have any role," Abbas said on Wednesday.

"But I can't wait forever. A number of ministers have resigned from the current government, and the administrative situation has paralysed it, which forced me to announce this [new] government."

Palestinian labour minister Ahmad Majdalani said the government would be sworn in at Abbas' office at 18:00.

According to a source in Fayyad's office, seven new ministers will take up the portfolios covering health, tourism, national economy, justice, agriculture, transportation and telecommunications.

Although the new ministers have been chosen, the source said it was possible there could be changes before the swearing in ceremony.

Majdalani confirmed there would be seven new ministers in what will be the 14th Palestinian cabinet.

Angry Hamas

Like Abbas, he said the move to replace the old cabinet instead of bringing in the interim cabinet called for by the unity deal was a not a sign that the reconciliation process had collapsed.

"No, we still hope that the reconciliation will happen. But we need to reshuffle the government to deal with the population's everyday life," he said.

But Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, reacted angrily to news of the new cabinet.

"This strengthens the division," Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhum said.

"This government was built on corruption, and was not the choice of the Palestinian people and was not approved by the legislative council."

Barhum said the move "shows clearly to all that the Palestinian Authority and Fatah are far from the implementation" of the unity agreement.