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Agreement Reached Following Meeting Between Hamas, Abbas

By Steven Erlanger
and Greg Myre
THE NEW YORK TIMES


GAZA

The Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, said Monday that he had reached a tentative agreement with Hamas to form a national unity government in an attempt to end the international isolation and the cutoff in Western assistance.

In a speech on Palestinian television, Abbas said that it would still take several days to finish the deal and provided no details of how Hamas and Fatah had resolved their considerable differences.

“We have finalized the elements of the political agenda of the national unity government,” Abbas said in his speech. “Hopefully, in the coming days we will begin forming the government of national unity.”

While the two factions have agreed on a political program, its details were unclear. It is expected to be limited to this unity government and not commit the Hamas movement to its words. A national unity government will also have representatives of other Palestinian factions like Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said Ghazi Hamad, the spokesman for the current Hamas government.

“We’re trying to make a balance between the requirements of the international community and Palestinian factions,” Hamad said. “For everyone to sit at the same table won’t be easy, but we need to do this. We hope it will break the international siege and minimize the tensions on the street.”

Fatah says it is prepared to negotiate with Israel and seeks a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, which would include all of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with a capital in East Jerusalem.

Hamas, which has always refused to recognize Israel, says that all the land in the region belongs to Muslims. However, Hamas has said it would consider a long-term truce with Israel if a Palestinian state is established on the 1967 borders.

Aides to Abbas said Monday that he hopes to be able to disband the current Hamas government within the next 48 hours, but that the two factions still disagreed over important portfolios.