JERUSALEM – Ceremoniously announced last month, reconciliation between the two rival Palestinian leaderships – the secular Fatah and the Islamist Hamas – hit a serious snag Sunday.
In the latest blow, Hamas on Sunday rejected Fatah’s proposal that internationally respected economist Salam Fayyad remain prime minister.
“Hamas will not agree to grant Salam Fayyad the confidence to run the national unity government,” said Salah Bardawil, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip.
Ironically, a breakdown in the reconciliation process could bolster U.S. efforts to restart peace talks. Israel has balked at engaging a Palestinian government that includes Hamas militants and has urged the Palestinian Authority to abandon the attempt to draw closer to Hamas, and return to the negotiating table instead.
Fatah and Hamas are set to meet Tuesday in Cairo to begin the process of choosing a new Cabinet, beginning with the prime minister.
Christchurch hit by more temblors
WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A series of aftershocks shook the quake-weary New Zealand city of Christchurch today, bringing down at least one building and briefly trapping two people inside a damaged church.
Power was cut to about 10,000 homes in the city’s eastern suburbs, and dust billowed from the cordoned-off city center devastated in February’s major earthquake.
More than 80 percent of the buildings in the central city’s “red zone” were damaged in that disaster, including more than 700 that cannot be salvaged.
“We are being enveloped with dust. It is very, very scary,” Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker told New Zealand’s National Radio.
All across Christchurch, people fled buildings in panic when a 5.2-magnitude quake struck during lunchtime; just over an hour later, a 6.0 was recorded, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The city has been shaken by thousands of aftershocks since the 6.3-magnitude quake killed 181 people Feb. 22.
Jordan to allow elected Cabinets
AMMAN, Jordan – Jordan’s king bowed to popular demands for elected Cabinets on Sunday but gave no timetable, saying that sudden change could lead to “chaos and unrest” in this country that has averted the turmoil seen in other Arab nations.
It was the first time that King Abdullah II has made such a concession to Jordanians, who have taken to the streets during six months of pro-democracy protests to demand a greater political say in this key U.S. Arab ally.
In the televised speech Sunday marking his 12th year as Jordan’s ruler, Abdullah said that future Cabinets will be formed according to an elected parliamentary majority. He did not say when the change would take place, but suggested that it would come after relevant laws are in place.