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Thousands attend Gaza rally calling for Haniyeh to remain PM
Tens of thousands of Hamas supporters rallied in Gaza on Friday, demanding that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas head any Palestinian unity government, despite a deal for him to step aside as a means of restoring Western aid.
The public show of support for Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader, puts pressure on the ruling militant movement to retain him as their candidate to lead a possible new cabinet.
That would further complicate unity government talks that moderate Palestinaian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of the rival Fatah faction has said are at a dead end.
"We want you [Haniyeh] to be the prime minister. We will not abandon your leadership of the cabinet," Ismail Rudwan, a Hamas spokesman, told the rally held in front of the Legislative Council in Gaza City.
"We demand the leadership of Hamas retain... Ismail Haniyeh as head of the government and head any coming government."
Earlier Friday, during a visit to Iran Haniyeh vowed that his Hamas-led government will never recognize Israel and will continue to fight for the liberation of Jerusalem.
"The world arrogance (U.S.) and Zionists ... want us to recognize the
usurpation of the Palestinian lands and stop jihad and resistance and accept the agreements reached with the Zionist enemies in the past," Haniyeh told thousands prayer worshippers in a speech at Tehran University.
"I'm insisting from this podium that these issues won't materialize. We will never recognize the usurper Zionist government and will continue our
jihad-like movement until the liberation of Jerusalem," he said.
Haniyeh arrived in Tehran on Thursday for talks with Iranian leaders, including hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, state-run media reported. This is Haniyeh's first tour abroad since Hamas took power in March.