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Palestinian Prime Minister Meets With Rival Factions

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia has been meeting with rival factions in Gaza Saturday. Talks come as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat remains in a coma in a military hospital outside of Paris, lingering between life and death.

The Gaza meeting brought together Prime Minister Qureia and representatives of militant factions, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Liberation Front. It's an effort to maintain the relative calm that has prevailed since Yasser Arafat fell ill over a week ago, and his subsequent evacuation for medical treatment in France.

Representatives of over a dozen Palestinian groups met in Gaza Friday. Islamic Jihad leader Mohammed al-Hindi said their meeting was a reminder of the unity of the Palestinian people. Islamic Jihad and Hamas issued a call Friday to have their organizations integrated into the Palestinian government to form what they termed a unified leadership.

The proposal does not have support across the political spectrum, especially from Yasser Arafat's mainstream Fatah faction, which has sought to distance itself from the extremist policies of the two groups.

Arafat aide Tayeb Abdul Rahim confirmed Saturday what had previously been reported, that the Palestinian leader's duties are being shared by Prime Minister Qureia and former Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas.

A French hospital spokesman Friday described Mr. Arafat's condition as critical, but stable. The spokesman, General Christian Estripeau, did not answer any questions from journalists.

Meanwhile, violence continued with at least six Palestinians reported killed in incidents in the Palestinian territories. Two were killed Saturday, when a car exploded in the West Bank town of Qalqilya. Israel says three Palestinian militants trying to infiltrate a Jewish settlement in the southern Gaza Strip were killed in an Israeli air strike. A Palestinian teenager was shot dead by Israeli troops in a clash with stone-throwing teenagers in the West Bank town of Jenin.