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Hamas Chooses Ismail Haniyah As Prime Minister

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas will present Haniyah with his letter of appointment tomorrow (file photo) (RFE/RL) 20 February 2006 -- The militant group Hamas presented Ismail Haniyah as its choice for prime minister in a meeting today with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas.

Abbas is expected to give Haniyah his official letter of appointment tomorrow, setting in motion the process of forming a new government.

Hamas swept to power in legislative elections last month and today was canvassing various militant factions concerning their participation in a new government.

Islamic Jihad Says No, Popular Front Says Yes

Earlier today, the militant Palestinian group Islamic Jihad has turned down an invitation to join the next cabinet.

The group’s leader said it would stay out of government but would back Hamas on its "resistance to protect the interests of the people." Nafez Azzam spoke to journalists in Gaza City today and said his group will “cooperate” with Hamas.

"Our brothers in Hamas surely offered us to take part in this government and we made our position clear and that is that we will not participate,” Azzam said. “But at the same time we told them that we would cooperate with our brothers in Hamas to defend the rights of our people and protect their well-being."

Earlier, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine agreed in principle to join the new government.

The European Union and United States both regard Hamas as a terrorist organization and have called on the group to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Israel recently said it would not transfer badly needed funding to a Hamas-led government.

(compiled from agency reports)