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Abbas names PM as unity govt talks stall over foreign minister

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas chose a prime minister to head a unity government on Thursday but announcement of the lineup was held up over the foreign affairs portfolio, officials said.

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas chose a prime minister to head a unity government on Thursday but announcement of the lineup was held up over the foreign affairs portfolio, officials said.

Abbas sent a "letter of designation" to Rami Hamdallah, who is currently serving as premier within the West Bank-based government, an official in Ramallah said.

"The government is ready, but there is only one problem, and that is that Fatah and Hamas reject Riyad al-Malki as foreign minister, something Abbas is insisting on," the official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Malki is a veteran diplomat who has served as foreign minister since 2007.

But a source close to Hamas said the Islamist movement wanted the post to be held by Ziyad Abu Amer, one of two deputy premiers currently serving under Hamdallah.

Hamas and the Western-backed PLO, which is dominated by Abbas's secular Fatah party, signed a surprise reconciliation agreement on April 23 to end years of bitter and sometime bloody rivalry.

Under terms of the deal, the two sides would work together to form an "independent government" of technocrats that would pave the way for long-delayed elections.

The agreement gave them five weeks to set up a unity government which was to have been announced by May 28.

"If this issue is resolved today and Abbas agrees not to appoint Malki, then the government will be announced in the next few hours," the official said.

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