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Israeli PM to Urge France to Oppose Palestinian Unity Deal


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (file photo)

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu meets with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris on Thursday, a day after Netanyahu sharply criticized a Palestinian unity agreement while visiting Britain.

The Israeli leader is expected to voice concerns to Sarkozy that the new agreement could be a setback for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The French leader earlier this week hinted that France may recognize an independent Palestine this year, if the peace talks do not resume by September.

Sarkozy told L'Express magazine Tuesday the issue must be concluded before September, when the Palestinians are expected to ask the United Nations General Assembly to recognize statehood for all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Palestine has been recognized as an independent state by several nations, but not by the United States and most European countries.

On Wednesday, Palestinian leaders from the Fatah and Hamas groups signed an accord that formally ends a bitter, four-year rift. The accord calls for the formation of an interim Palestinian government followed by presidential and legislative elections within a year.

However, Israel, the U.S. and the European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group. The Iran-backed faction has repeatedly denied Israel's right to exist.

During talks on Wednesday with British Prime Minister David Cameron, Netanyahu denounced the Palestinian reconciliation as a "tremendous blow to peace." He also called it a "victory for terrorism." The prime minister urged Cameron not to recognize the Fatah-Hamas government.

U.S. President Barack Obama will host Netanyahu May 20 at the White House.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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