Ma'an News Agency
May 4, 2011 - 12:00am

Hamas leader in exile Khalid Mash'al's insistence on delivering a speech at the signing ceremony of unity documents in Cairo on Wednesday delayed the start of the historic event by more than an hour, sources told Ma'an.

Sources said President, PLO leader and Fatah chairman Mahmoud Abbas would be the only Palestinian figure to speak at the event, but tensions rose when Mash'al said that he - as the representative of Hamas - would also like to address the audience.

Further tensions arose, an official said, when chair placement at the ceremony failed to meet Mash'al's expectations for even dealings with Hamas and Fatah delegates.

The exact nature of the compromise remains unknown, but reports said the signing ceremony did kick off just over an hour after its scheduled start in Egypt's intelligence headquarters.

In addition to the delegations from Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian members of Israel's Knesset, and representatives of 14 Palestinian political factions were present.

Egypt's new Minister of Foreign Affairs Nabil Al-Arabi, Chief of the Arab League Amr Mousa, the chief of Egyptian intelligence, as well as the Palestinian ambassador to Egypt, were to oversee the event.

Officials were unable to confirm whether the country's head of military Council and Prime Minister Isam Sharaf would attend.

Abbas arrived in Cairo late on Tuesday, for what will be a two-day visit. He is expected to make a statement during the ceremony.

A report in Israel's daily newspaper Haaretz named three Palestinian and Arab MKs who were making the journey to Cairo and arrived Tuesday night.

United Arab List members Ahmed Tibi and Taleb As-Sana and Hadash chairman Mohammed Barakeh, accepted invitations to witness the signing, Haaretz said.

Citing a statement issued Wednesday morning, Haaretz said the delegation had accepted the invitation as a "tribute to their efforts of the past few years to bring about reconciliation between West Bank-based Fatah and Gaza-based Hamas."

Unity deal

Palestinian factions signed the reconciliation deal on Tuesday, uniting the West Bank and Gaza under one government that will shortly be appointed. The new ruling body is expected to be composed of independent technocrats, and will oversee the reconstruction of Gaza, the reformation of security services, and lead Palestinians into national elections within the year.

Representatives of 13 factions, including President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party and its rival Hamas, as well as independent political figures, inked the deal following talks with Egyptian officials.

"All the Palestinian factions signed the document at a meeting with Egyptian intelligence officials," Bilal Qassem, politburo member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, told AFP.

He said all factions were given the opportunity to discuss the document and air any reservations.

"We signed the deal despite several reservations. But we insisted on working for the higher national interest," said Walid Al-Awad, a politburo member of the leftist Palestine People's Party.


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