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New Palestinian Unity Government Sworn In


The new Palestinian national unity government has been sworn in, after it was overwhelmingly approved by parliament Saturday. The ruling Islamic militant group Hamas now begins to share power with the rival and more moderate Fatah faction. The coalition agreement caps months of negotiations, and is aimed at ending infighting that has raised fears of civil war. As Robert Berger reports from VOA's Jerusalem bureau, the Palestinians are also hoping to end their international isolation.

President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah began the parliament session with an appeal to the international community to lift crippling sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.

But Hamas has rejected key international conditions for removing the boycott, namely renunciation of violence and recognition of Israel. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas reiterated that position in a policy speech.

Mr. Haniyeh said the new government affirms the Palestinians' right to resist the Israeli occupation "by all means," understood as a reference to shooting attacks and suicide bombings. Such attacks in the past have prompted the United States and European Union to brand Hamas a terrorist organization and cut off nearly $1 billion in annual aid.

Israel says it will not deal with the new government, and it will urge the international community to keep sanctions in place.

Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told Israel Radio that if this is a government of terror and not peace, it should not be helped.

International reaction has been mixed. Russia said the new Palestinian government has taken international demands "into account," while Britain said it is "a step in the right direction."

However, the U.S. reiterated its long-term position that it will not deal with the Palestinian government until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel.

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