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Abbas extends emergency Palestinian cabinet's rule

Palestinian militants from the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, an armed wing of President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction, take over the Palestinian parliament building in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Saturday, June 16, 2007. EUTERS/Ammar Awad

RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has issued decrees to bypass constitutional limits on his powers to establish an emergency government shutting out Islamist Hamas, aides said on Sunday.

They said the decrees, issued late on Saturday, would allow Abbas, who heads the secular Fatah, to keep a planned cabinet in place without parliamentary approval. The new 13-member cabinet was to be sworn in at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT).

Hamas ousted Fatah from the Gaza Strip last week, prompting Abbas to dissolve the factions’ coalition government and declare a state of emergency. Hamas had rejected the moves as a “coup.”

Under Palestinians law, the state of emergency is not to exceed 30 days, but it could be extended for another period of 30 days after winning the approval of two thirds of the parliament.

Hamas holds a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council though Israeli arrests of its deputies makes it difficult to reach a quorum and hold decision-making sessions.

That could enable Abbas to keep the state of emergency in place longer. Some Fatah officials and U.S. diplomats have argued that Abbas could rule by decree for six months to a year ahead of new elections.