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EU Welcomes New Palestinian Government, Holds Off on Aid


European Union foreign ministers have welcomed Palestinian plans to form a new unity government that would replace the current Hamas-led one.

The ministers met in Brussels Friday to debate whether to support a Palestinian plan that would form a new government with the ruling Hamas movement and President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party.

Finland's foreign minister, Erkki Tuomioja, said the EU should view the new Palestinian government as an opportunity to renew the Middle East peace process. Finland holds the rotating EU presidency.

But the ministers held off on restoring direct aid to the struggling Palestinian government. They agreed instead to extend by three months a temporary aid program that allows funds to reach needy Palestinians while bypassing Hamas.

The EU and the United States cut off aid to the Hamas-led government because it refuses to recognize Israel, renounce violence and accept past peace accords.

Washington has cautioned against lifting those restrictions in the absence of details on the policies of the new unity government. The U.S., Israel and the European Union designate Hamas a terrorist organization.

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