Egypt delays Fatah-Hamas unity deal deadline

The deadline for rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah to sign an Egyptian-sponsored unity deal has been postponed, with Hamas saying it wanted an extension and amendments to the deal.


AFP - Egypt has delayed its deadline for Hamas to sign a unity deal with Fatah after the Islamist group asked for a delay, an Egyptian official said on Friday.

"Egypt (will) postpone the signing of this deal at the current time," the official MENA news agency quoted the official as saying.

The announcement came a day after Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party presented a signed copy of the deal on Egypt's deadline, with Hamas saying it wanted an extension and amendments to the deal.

The official cited the "repercussions between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas because of the dispute on handling the Goldstone report," referring to the controversy over a damning UN report on the Gaza war at the turn of the year.

The official did not give a new deadline for wrapping up the deal, which would lead to a general election agreed on by both Fatah and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Hamas had accused Fatah of "betraying" the Palestinian victims of the conflict after the Palestinian delegation at the UN Human Rights Council agreed to have a vote on the report deferred.

The council has taken up the report again, and is expected to vote on Friday on whether to endorse it.

On Thursday, Hamas said it wanted more time to study the reconciliation deal and demanded that it include a clause on the right to resist Israeli occupation.

"Hamas has officially asked Egypt to give it two to three days to complete its internal consultations," the Hamas-run government spokesman Taher al-Nunu said.

A Damascus-based spokesman for Hamas and other hardline groups also criticised the agreement, saying it "lacks a political vision concerning the conflict (with Israel) and the aggression against our people."

"The Palestinian factions will not sign the accord ... unless the text includes the principles and the rights of Palestinians, especially that of resisting the Zionist occupation," Khaled Abdel Majid said.

Azzam al-Ahmed, Fatah's lead negotiator, said in Cairo after handing the signed deal to Egyptian mediators on Thursday that Hamas was looking for excuses to delay reconciliation.

"We hope that Hamas stops conscripting itself to the interests of the Israeli rightwing and the American administration. Israel and the American administration do not want an end to the division," he told reporters.

Hamas-Fatah tensions date back to the start of limited Palestinian self-rule in the mid-1990s when Fatah strongmen cracked down on Islamist activists.

They worsened in January 2006, when Hamas beat the previously dominant Fatah in a surprise general election rout to grab more than half the seats in parliament.

Hamas expelled Fatah from Gaza after a week of deadly clashes in June 2007, cleaving the Palestinian territories into rival hostile camps.

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