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Mahmoud Abbas to head interim Palestinian government

Rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah have named President Mahmoud Abbas to head an interim government ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections.

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Palestinian Authority president and head of the Fatah movement Mahmud Abbas at a Fatah 'Revolutionary Council' meeting in Ramallah on October 26, 2011. (ABBAS MOMANI/AFP/Getty Images)

The rival Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, have named President Mahmoud Abbas to head an interim government, ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for May.

An agreement was signed by Abbas and the head of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, in the Qatari capital Doha today, Al Jazeera reported.

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According to the so-called "Doha Declaration," the new government will be responsible for overseeing reconstruction of the Gaza Strip and ensuring the "smooth implementation of presidential and parliamentary elections."

"We inform our people that we are serious about healing the wounds... to reunite our people on the foundation of a political partnership, in order to devote our effort to resisting the [Israeli] occupation," the BBC quoted Meshaal as saying.

Abbas and Meshaal had been in talks in Doha to finalise a reconciliation agreement that was signed last April, Agence France Presse reported. The choice of a leader was said to be one of the main sticking points, with Hamas objecting to Abbas' initial suggestion that the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, Salam Fayyad, take the role.

Both Abbas and Meshaal have agreed that elections need to be held quickly, and that any obstacles that might delay the polls must be removed.

It is understood that the interim government will be made up of independents.

The rest of the line-up will be announced on Feb. 18 in Cairo, a Fatah official told AFP, which is when the dates of parliamentary and presidential elections will also be set.

According to Reuters, the Palestinian election commission says it will not be ready to hold the vote in May as planned, and needs more time to prepare.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/israel-and-palestine/120206/mahmoud-abbas-head-interim-palestinian