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Fatah accepts Egypt's Palestinian unity proposal
Tue Oct 13, 2009 10:50am EDT
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By Ali Sawafta
RAMALLAH, West Bank (Reuters) - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party accepted Tuesday Egypt's plan for separate signings of a reconciliation deal with Hamas after the Islamist group balked at attending a unity ceremony.
Hamas said it still had not decided whether to agree to the proposal put forward by Egyptian mediators.
"We in Fatah agree to the Egyptian document and will sign it (within 48 hours)," Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad said. "We are waiting for Hamas to accept it."
Egypt had invited Fatah and Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in 2006 and violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip from its Western-backed rival in 2007, to attend a ceremony on October 24-26 in Cairo, where they were expected to sign a reconciliation pact.
But Hamas asked last week for a postponement, citing Abbas's agreement under U.S. pressure to back the deferral by the U.N. Human Rights Council of a vote on a report that accused Israel of war crimes during Israel's December-January Gaza offensive.
The report, by South African jurist Richard Goldstone, also said Hamas militants, who carried out cross-border rocket attacks on communities in Israel, committed war crimes.
Mohammed Dahlan, a senior Fatah leader, said he and other party officials would urge Abbas to hold unilaterally Palestinian parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for January 25 if Hamas failed to agree to a reconciliation pact.
In a report sourced to an unidentified official in the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Israel's Haaretz daily said U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell told Egypt that Washington does not support the proposed unity deal.
Mitchell, according to the newspaper, said certain aspects of the current agreement would undermine U.S. efforts to relaunch negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hamas opposes the talks and has rejected Western calls to renounce violence, recognize Israel and accept previous interim Israeli-Palestinian peace deals.
The U.S. embassy in Israel had no comment on the Haaretz report.
Under the proposed unity deal, a committee of Palestinian factions would act as a liaison between the Fatah-dominated government in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in the Gaza Strip and a joint police force would be formed.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said his movement had not finalized its position and would hand over its response to Cairo once "contacts with Egyptian officials and internal consultations within the movement were over."
In fresh comments that could stir Hamas anger, Abbas said the group's leaders fled to Egypt's Sinai peninsula, across the border from the Gaza Strip, during the war. Continued...
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