Palestinian PM says negotiations with Israel can continue as Olmert starts to form government
The new Palestinian prime minister said Thursday President Mahmoud Abbas is free to negotiate with Israel on his own and that his government will take control of the Palestinian security forces.
Abbas, "as the head of the Palestinian Authority and the PLO, can move on political fronts and negotiate with whomever he wants. What is important is what will be offered to the Palestinian people," Ismail Haniyeh told The Associated Press in an interview.
Meanwhile, Israeli President Moshe Katsav on Thursday formally asked Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to form the next government, officially making the Kadima party leader the prime minister-designate.
"I am honored to announce at this time that I decided to give lawmaker Ehud Olmert the responsibility of forming the government," Katsav said, according to Haaretz.
In a joint press conference with Katsav in Jerusalem, Olmert told reporters that he would "seek to establish the most stable coalition possible," which will be based on his convergence plan - a unilateral withdrawal from large areas of the West Bank - and setting Israel's final borders by 2010.
"These plans will be the basis of the government's operations," Olmert said. "I believe this is also known to all the potential partners and there is no doubt we will act in this way."