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Progress Reported at Palestinian Reconciliation Talks


Rival Palestinian factions meeting in Saudi Arabia say they have largely reached agreement on the composition of a unity government cabinet. VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, the Saudi-sponsored talks are designed to end a bitter political feud between the factions Hamas and Fatah.

Fatah and Hamas have agreed to appoint independents to key cabinet positions, including the all-important ministry of the interior, which oversees Palestinian security forces. Mohammed Nazal, a close aide to Hamas supreme leader Khaled Meshaal, told journalists that he believes a national unity government will soon be declared.

Nazal says other Palestinian factions besides Hamas and Fatah should also be included in a future unity government and both Fatah and Hamas agree that the interior ministry should be run by an independent.

Talks are continuing over the more contentious issue of whether Hamas will agree to join a government that recognizes Israel, renounces violence, and respects past peace accords between Israel and the Fatah-led PLO, something Hamas has refused to agree to in the past.

Israel and the United States say they will not deal with any government that does not meet those three conditions. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who leads Fatah, says if no agreement can be reached on a unity government he will call new legislative and presidential elections within months. But both sides say they will not leave the talks in Saudi Arabia until they reach agreement.

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