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Hamas selects prime minister

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Hamas presented Ismail Haniyeh as its choice for Palestinian prime minister on Monday, officials said, a step toward installing the first government to be headed by the militant Islamic group.

Officials said Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas would present Haniyeh with his formal letter of appointment Tuesday evening, setting in motion the process of naming a new Cabinet to be approved by the Hamas-dominated parliament.

Haniyeh, who is known as a pragmatist, said he would try to form a joint government with Fatah – the traditional Palestinian ruling party that Hamas trounced in the election – so it can “shoulder its responsibilities in the political area and internal issues.” So far, Fatah has refused to join.

Haniyeh also criticized Israel for freezing transfers of tax money over the weekend.

“The Israelis are trying to starve innocent people by taking money from our taxes, and we are going to fight this by all legal means,” Haniyeh said. “This collective punishment will not break the determination of the Palestinian people.”

The announcement came after Hamas legislators spent the day meeting with potential governing partners, including the violent Islamic Jihad group, which did not participate in the elections.

Mahmoud Zahar, the Hamas official leading the talks, said the group expected to form a government in the next two weeks.

Zahar said Monday that Hamas was willing to establish a temporary state in the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem as an interim step toward taking over Israel.

Israel’s acting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called for foreign nations to work with Israel to isolate Hamas.

“There is a need for the international community to have a united front regarding the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority in the Hamas era,” she said.


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