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Hamas Agrees to Talk with Palestinian PM


Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia is preparing to hold his first meeting with the militant Islamic group Hamas. Meanwhile, Israel has decided to renew some contacts with the Palestinian leadership.

Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, announced that it had accepted a request from Mr. Qureia to hold talks. The meeting would be the first between the Palestinian prime minister and Hamas since Mr. Qureia took office earlier this month.

Mr. Qureia's office declined to disclose details, but it reiterated his desire to gain the backing of Hamas for a cease-fire with Israel to end more than three years of fighting.

Two days ago, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the killing of three Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The two groups, which have carried out numerous suicide bombings and other attacks, have reportedly agreed to joint military operations against Israel.

A spokesman for Mr. Qureia said he wants to emphasize that the Palestinian Authority is the one legitimate governing body for the Palestinian people, and that individual militia groups should not take the law into their own hands.

In a separate development, Israel has decided to renew low-level contacts with the Palestinian leadership.

An Israeli delegation headed by Dov Weisglass, office director for Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, is planning to meet with officials from the Palestinian side.

Mr. Qureia has reportedly declined to take part in the discussions or to meet face to face with Mr. Sharon at this stage, saying he first wants to build his new government.

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