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Palestinian Factions Make Progress on Unity Government


Rival Palestinian factions are holding a third day of top-level talks aimed at forming a national unity government. The aim is to present a Palestinian government that would be more acceptable to the international community, which has shunned the current regime led by Islamic militants.

Leaders from the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas and the rival and more moderate Fatah faction say they're making progress on the formation of a national unity government. The Hamas government is expected to resign within days and be replaced by a cabinet of technocrats, or independent professionals. They would have links to the political factions but are not formally members.

"The idea is that this government will be a government of services, that the government will be in charge of running daily lives like internal affairs, like economy, education and health," said Palestinian analyst Wadia Abu Nasser.

Under the emerging blueprint, moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah would be responsible for political issues, including pursuing peace talks with Israel.

The aim is to create a more moderate government that would end international sanctions that have crippled the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority. Hamas seeks Israel's destruction, and it has been shunned by the United States and Europe, which consider it a terrorist organization.

Israel says if the new government strengthens Palestinian moderates and weakens the radicals it could help revive the peace process..

"The prime minister has stated that it is very important to continue to try and have dialogue with the Palestinian moderates," said Miri Eisen, spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

The European Union has welcomed the formation of a unity government, saying it could clear the way for the resumption of hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinian Authority. But Washington is more cautious. It says aid won't be restored unless the new government meets three conditions: recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence, and acceptance of previous peace agreements.

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