Wednesday, February 21, 2007

U.S. favorite accepts key Palestinian ministry post

"GAZA (Reuters) - A U.S.-educated economist with close ties to the Bush administration agreed on Wednesday to serve as finance minister in a Palestinian unity government, despite the threat of a boycott by the United States and Israel.

Salam Fayyad met Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in the Gaza Strip and told reporters afterwards that he had been invited to assume the post of minister of finance. "I have accepted," Fayyad said.

Fayyad, who has previously served in the post, will be taking on a ministry cut off financially since the Islamist Hamas movement came to power in March.

Palestinians hoped Fayyad's return to the ministry would encourage Israel and Western powers to ease an economic boycott after Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction signed a power-sharing pact with Hamas earlier this month.....

A former World Bank and International Monetary Fund official, Fayyad served as finance minister from 2002 to 2005 under a Fatah-led administration before creating the Third Way party and running for parliament.

Fayyad has good relations with President Bush. He met Rice before she had talks with Abbas and Olmert in Jerusalem on Monday.

As finance minister, Fayyad initiated reforms of the financial system that won U.S. and international praise......"

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