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Rival factions fail to agree

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Palestinian president and the Hamas leader said they made progress.
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) -- Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the exiled chief of the rival Hamas faction failed Sunday night to resolve their differences over forming a unity government, dashing hopes for a quick end to deadly clashes between their supporters.
But Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in a statement that they "achieved major progress" during the meeting -- their first since July 2005 -- and hoped to resume talks within two weeks.
"There are still points of disagreement, but we will try to resolve them through a national dialogue until we form a national unity government," Mashaal said during a joint news conference with Abbas in the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The two sides stressed that recent Palestinian fighting, which has killed at least 62 people, was unacceptable and pledged to exert efforts to avoid political friction.
"Palestinian bloodshed was considered totally prohibited, and we must exert all efforts to avoid frictions and internal clashes," Abbas said.
The two men originally had been scheduled to meet Saturday evening, but that session was canceled and officials from both sides had cautioned against expectations the Sunday meeting might yield immediate results.
Both sides said differences remained, without providing details. The thorniest issues have been control of the two factions' security forces and Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel or commit to previous accords signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
An official of Abbas' Fatah party in the Gaza Strip was optimistic about the meeting, saying Abbas and Mashaal agreed to let an independent run the Interior Ministry, though they did not agree on who specifically should lead the powerful security wing.
"I think some things were accomplished. Some issues were resolved and others remain problematic. That would need continuation of dialogue here in Gaza and mediation in Damascus," said Abdel Hakim Awad, Fatah's spokesman in Gaza.
He said differences also remained over how the official document laying out the new government would be worded.
The deputy head of Hamas' political bureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk, who attended some of Sunday's talks, said the one sticking point were the conditions under which Abbas would name a new prime minister for the unity government.
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