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Palestinian Factions Continue Talks After No Agreement on Coalition

22 January 2007

Leaders of the two main Palestinian factions say a new round of talks will begin on Tuesday aimed at creating a unity Palestinian government. VOA's Jim Teeple reports, Palestinian leaders failed to resolve the issue during talks on Sunday in the Syrian capital, Damascus.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas supreme leader Khaled Mashaal failed to reach agreement on the composition of a unity government after intensive discussions late Sunday. Speaking to reporters in Damascus, Mashaal said it was unrealistic to expect the two factions to agree on every issue but both sides were committed to negotiations.

The Hamas leader says violence is an unacceptable way to resolve political differences and all efforts will be made to resolve differences through negotiations.

It was the first meeting between Mashaal and President Abbas since Hamas won legislative elections last January, taking control of the Palestinian Authority. In recent months violence between Mr. Abbas' Fatah faction and Hamas has escalated. More than 60 Palestinians have been killed in recent fighting.

Hamas and Fatah have been trying to form a unity government for months, as a way of getting around international sanctions on Hamas for its refusal to recognize Israel. However the two factions have been unable to agree on who will control key cabinet positions.

President Abbas said while the Damascus meeting was unable to resolve those differences talks will continue.

Mr. Abbas says the talks will continue until a unity government is formed saying there is no other option to end the suffering of Palestinians.

Last month, Mr. Abbas threatened to call new legislative and presidential elections in the Palestinian territories if no agreement was reached on the composition of a new government.

Despite their differences, the leaders of Fatah and Hamas both said in Damascus they will oppose any move to create a transitional temporary Palestinian state with borders based on Israel's 700-kilometer security barrier. The proposal has been floated by several leading Israeli officials recently as a way of re-starting stalled Arab-Israeli peace talks.

In recent days, Israel has released $100 million in frozen Palestinian tax and customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority to Mr. Abbas. Israel has also removed some West Bank roadblocks that hindered the movement of Palestinians - but Palestinians say an overwhelming number of restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the West Bank remain in place.

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