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Palestinian Territories

Abbas names Rami Hamdallah as new Palestinian prime minister

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has appointed a senior academic as the new prime minister. Rami Hamdallah will replace Salam Fayyad and is tasked with assembling a new cabinet.

Rami Hamdallah, left, chairman of the Palestinian election committee, announces the list of 10 candidates qualified to run in Jan. 9 elections to replace the late Yasser Arafat as head of the Palestinian Authority, during a news conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Thursday, Dec. 2, 2004. The qualified candidates include Mahmoud Abbas, the interim Palestinian leader, jailed uprising leader Marwan Barghouti and democracy advocate Mustafa Barghouti. Others are unidentified.(AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

Rami Hamdallah

President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday confirmed speculation that Rami Hamdallah (left) would be Palestine's new prime minister.

The academic, who heads the electoral commission, will be tasked with forming a new government. Abbas made the announcement during a meeting at the Palestinian Authority headquarters in Ramallah.

Abbas met with Hamdallah Sunday night and asked him to form the new government, Abbas' office said.

Hamdallah thanked the president for asking him to form the new government "at this sensitive time in the Palestinian cause," the office said, adding Hamdallah committed himself to following Abbas' policies.

Hamdallah is considered politically independent, not affiliated to particular Palestinian political parties. A British-educated English professor, he has been dean of the Palestinian al-Najah University in the West Bank for the last 15 years.

Outgoing Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced his resignation in April and formally leaves office later this month. Abbas asked him to stay on in a caretaker role when he said he was quitting.

Abbas and the Islamist Hamas movement, which runs the Gaza Strip, agreed in principle last month to form a unity government. But a Hamas spokesman said Hamdallah's appointment puts that plan in doubt.

"Abbas should have implemented the reconciliation [deal]" achieved in Cairo last month, rather than put forth his own candidate as prime minister, Fawzi Ibrahim told the Reuters news agency. The group called Hamdallah's appointment "illegal."

The US, however, welcomed the selection of Hamdallah.

"We congratulate Dr Rami Hamdallah, the next Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "His appointment comes at a moment of challenge, which is also an important moment of opportunity."

msh,dr/lw (AFP, AP, Reuters)