updated 3/14/2007 11:08:07 AM ET 2007-03-14T15:08:07

Political rivals Hamas and Fatah will present a national unity government to parliament for approval Saturday, capping months of negotiations interspersed by periods of deadly factional fighting, officials from both sides said.

The decision to set a date came in a meeting Wednesday between President Mahmoud Abbas of Fatah and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas. The two were to meet again later in the day to wrap up loose ends, including who will be named to the key position of interior minister and take control of the security forces.

Abbas and Haniyeh were to make a formal announcement on the formation of the coalition after their evening meeting, Abbas aides said.

Deputy Parliament Speaker Ahmed Bahar, meanwhile, said he has been asked to convene a session Saturday for a vote of confidence in the new government.

The two sides were eager to complete the coalition talks ahead of an Arab Summit set for later this month in Saudi Arabia. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected in the region next week.

Hamas and Fatah have been talking since fall on forming a more moderate coalition that Abbas hopes will end the boycott the West clamped on the Hamas government after it swept parliamentary elections a year ago. But the negotiations broke down repeatedly — often over Hamas’ refusal to yield to international demands to recognize Israel — and the breakdowns often were followed by increasingly bloody battles in Gaza.

It was the hope of ending the bloodshed that led Abbas to agree to a power-sharing deal that would fall short of the international conditions. Abbas has told Western powers who regard Hamas as a terrorist group that the deal reached last month in Mecca was the best he could get.

The Mecca agreement left much vague — including a fuzzy reference to “respect” past agreements between the Palestinians and Israel. And negotiations since the deal was reached have had their own share of obstacles, including who will be interior minister.

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