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With deadline looming, Abbas minister says Hamas dragging feet in Gaza handover

In this Sunday March 18, 2007 file photo, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, right, and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, left, speak as they head the first cabinet meeting of the new coalition government at Abbas' office, in
AP Photo/Khalil Hamra, File
Major issues still unresolved, including fate of Hamas' 25,000-strong armed wing

The Palestinian Authority's minister of civil affairs said Sunday that Hamas is dragging its feet in ceding control of the Gaza Strip, with the PA having assumed authority over only 5 percent of affairs just days ahead of a looming December 1 deadline to hand over power as part of a reconciliation agreement struck between the rival factions.

"The [Palestinian Authority] government until this moment, financially, administratively and security-wise, has not been set up [in the Gaza Strip] more than five percent," Minister of Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh told the PA's official newscast.

He said that the Palestinian Authority has been prevented from taking back their old administrative offices and that thousands of former government employees who worked for the PA in various Gaza ministries before Islamist Hamas took over the enclave in 2007 have yet to return to work.

Sheikh said the PA has also struggled to assert full authority over Gaza's border crossings, authority of which was handed over to the PA on November 1.

"Our crews are barefoot at the crossings," he said. "Setting up the [PA government] at the crossings is compromised by the lack of security," he added.

SAID KHATIB (AFP)

The borders have for the most part remained sealed since the takeover, except for a brief three-day opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt last Saturday.

Under the terms of a Palestinian reconciliation agreement reached last month under the auspices of Egypt, Gaza's Islamist rulers Hamas are supposed to cede all civil powers to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority by December 1.

Palestinian leaders left the Egyptian capital Cairo Thursday after fresh unity talks that resulted in calls for elections, but provided little clarity about thorny issues left still unresolved -- particularly, the fate of Hamas' 25,000-strong armed wing and punitive measures taken by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas against Gaza.

While Abbas and his PA have said that they expect full security control over the Strip, Hamas has refused to disband their militant wing.

"Weapons are not a factional or an organizational issue," Sheikh said. "We will not allow anything but one gun and one law," he added, using what has become the PA's catchphrase on the issue.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States and the European Union, has fought three wars with Israel since 2008.

Multiple previous reconciliation attempts between the Palestinian factions have failed.

(Staff with agencies)

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