Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said on Saturday: "Hamas has ended the formation of the government. The cabinet is ready to be presented to President Mahmoud Abbas in a meeting to be agreed with him."

Aljazeera has learnt that the government will comprise 24 ministers, 14 of them from the West Bank and 10 from the Gaza Strip. Hamas will have seven ministers, all from the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the remaining portfolios will go to independents and technocrats. The line-up will include a Christian and a woman.

 

Other sources in the Islamist group said Umar Abd al-Raziq, an economics professor and a Hamas election official, would be appointed to the post of finance minister.

 

Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January, was expected to name an independent to be economy minister.

 

Abd al-Raziq, a professor at al-Najah University in the West Bank, was arrested by Israeli forces in January but released three days ago, Hamas sources said.

 

America and Israel have said they will not to provide any money directly to a Hamas-led finance ministry, which is responsible for paying the salaries of about 140,000 Palestinian Authority employees and security forces.

 

Up to a quarter of Palestinians depend on wages from the Palestinian Authority, prompting James Wolfensohn, special envoy for Gaza disengagement for the Quartet on the Middle East, to say violence could break out if international aid is cut off and salaries are not paid.

 

Donor countries are considering setting up a trust fund that would pay salaries directly to Palestinian Authority employees as a way to bypass a Hamas-led finance ministry, Western diplomats said on Friday.