June 2, 2007 / 4:31 PM / 11 years ago

Hamas proposes one of its own as interior minister

GAZA (Reuters) - Hamas has nominated one of its members to be Palestinian interior minister, officials said on Saturday, a choice likely to be opposed by Western states.

Ghazi Hamad waves in the southern Gaza Strip in this file photo from December 3, 2005. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

But in considering the nomination of Ghazi Hamad, President Mahmoud Abbas must also judge whether a veto by his Fatah faction would risk stirring more fighting between the two groups.

As interior minister, Hamad would be in charge of 30,000 members of the Palestinian security forces, boosting Hamas’s influence at the expense of Fatah, its partner in a unity government. He currently serves as cabinet spokesman.

Fatah and Hamas officials said Abbas had discussed the nomination with Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas.

One aide to Abbas told Reuters, however, that it seemed unlikely Abbas would agree to the appointment of Hamad.

Under the terms of the accord between Hamas and Fatah that set up the coalition unity government in March, the post of interior minister is supposed to be filled by someone nominated by Hamas but not affiliated to either of the factions.

The previous interior minister, Hani al-Qawasmi, resigned two weeks ago after the biggest surge in bloodshed between Islamist Hamas and secular Fatah in months.

Officials said Qawasmi, an independent academic, had been frustrated by competition from powerful Fatah rivals for control of the armed contingents. Haniyeh took over the interior ministry portfolio temporarily from Qawasmi.

Filling the position had been one of the main obstacles to forming the current coalition government.

Hamad, formerly a local Hamas leader in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, was the editor of a pro-Hamas newspaper before becoming cabinet spokesman.

He has spent time in Israeli jails over his membership of Hamas, a movement that Israel, the United States and the European Union have classified as a terrorist organization.

He was also jailed for his Hamas activities by the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in 1996.

Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald in Ramallah

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