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March 15, 2007 14:16
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Hamas, Fatah wrap up unity deal, parliamentary vote scheduled Saturday₪ The rival Hamas and Fatah movements formed a long-elusive unity government Thursday, in hopes it will end bloody infighting and lead the Palestinians out of yearlong international isolation. PA Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of the Hamas and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah stood side by side in announcing the final coalition agreement, which capped months of stop-and-go negotiations. Parliament is to approve the coalition and its platform Saturday. *Israel denounced the new PA unity government Thursday and declared it as a "step backward", saying it would try to rally international opposition to it. Israel, the US and the European Union have said the new government must meet three conditions for acceptance, recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous peace deals. The program, as posted on Hamas and Fatah web sites, falls short of those requirements. Israeli political sources assured however that PM Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas would continue to meet and discuss matters including humanitarian issues. Western countries have also said they will wait for the new government to take office before deciding whether to lift their economic sanctions against the Palestinian Authority. The program is to be presented officially during Saturday's parliament session. Hanyieh said Thursday that the Palestinians have received encouraging signals from Europe. "No doubt, there is a different position by the American administration and the Israelis," he said, adding that the new government would do its best to bring about an end to the boycott and "maintain relations with all the international community." Haniyeh said he hoped the new government will "launch a new era" for the Palestinians. A senior Abbas aide, Nabil Abu Rdeneh, said the new coalition opens the way for a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. "This is the right moment to move toward the peace pro


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