New Palestinian government sworn in

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A new Palestinian government, headed by Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, was sworn in on Thursday in front of President Mahmoud Abbas at his headquarters in Ramallah, an AFP correspondent said.

The 24-member cabinet included some changes, notably the appointment of two deputy premiers and a new finance minister, but remains largely unchanged from its predecessor.

Hamdallah succeeded Salam Fayyad, who resigned in mid-April after months of difficult relations with president Mahmoud Abbas and stayed on as caretaker until Hamdallah’s appointment on Sunday.

The new line-up saw two deputy premiers sworn in - former foreign minister Ziad Abu Amr, and Mohammed Mustafa, head of the Palestinian investment fund, as an economy adviser.

Banker and economist Shukri Bishara took over the finance ministry, and Kamal al-Shirafi, from Gaza, will serve as minister of social affairs.

Ali Zaydan - head of Gaza’s Al-Aqsa University and the Arab American University in Jenin in the West Bank, moves from the transport and communications ministry to that of higher education.

Nabil al-Dumeidi takes over the communications portfolio.

Medics unionist Jawad Awad is health minister, and the local government ministry will be headed by Saed al-Kuni.

Hamdallah stressed that his administration would rule only for “a transitional period” until formation of a unity government comprising Abbas’s Fatah faction and the rival Hamas movement, which governs Gaza.

Such a coalition is laid out in as-yet unfulfilled unity agreements signed in Cairo in 2011 and in Doha the following year.

At a meeting in Cairo on May 14, Abbas and Hamas set a three-month time frame to implement key provisions of the 2011 agreement.

“Let’s be optimists and hope that we can achieve a unity government on August 14, and I will do everything in my power to do so,” Hamdallah said.

“I ask all Palestinian factions to work together to end this sad situation of division.”

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