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Key Palestinian issues unresolved despite deal

Palestinian PM Haniyeh speaks during a televised address in Gaza
Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appeals to the United States and other Middle East mediators to restore economic aid to the Palestinian Authority, during a televised address in Gaza, on Monday.Ibraheem Abu Mustafa / Reuters file
/ Source: The Associated Press

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas warned that key issues remain unresolved despite the Mecca agreement over a unity government, hoping talks with the rival Fatah would avert a renewal of bloody infighting.

Returning home Monday to Gaza from the Mecca summit, Haniyeh said his government will resign in the coming days, a formality to allow appointment of the new unity government. But first the disagreements must be worked out — especially over control over the disparate armed forces.

Those issues could still cause the deal to unravel, but Haniyeh said in a televised address Monday night that both sides were committed to implementing the Mecca accord signed Thursday.

“All Palestinians have won in this agreement,” he said.

Key post, fate of Hamas' militia unresolved
Hamas and the Fatah party of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have agreed to a division of Cabinet positions, but have not yet decided who will get the key post of interior minister, controlling most security forces.

Wrangling over such control helped spark the deadly factional violence that has killed more than 130 Palestinians.

The deal also did not settle the fate of Hamas’ 5,600-strong militia, which was formed last year over Abbas’ objections.

“When President Abu Mazen comes to Gaza, we will continue the negotiations on issues that remain,” Haniyeh said, referring to Abbas by his nickname.

Haniyeh said his government planned to resign in the coming days to start the process of forming the new coalition.

Once the government resigns, Abbas would formally tap Haniyeh to set up a new government, said Abbas aide Rafiq Husseini, a step that could happen within days.

Abbas is also trying to win international support for the coalition deal, even though it falls short of demands that any Palestinian government recognize Israel and renounce violence. The Mecca deal says the coalition would “respect” all agreements signed by the PLO, including those with Israel, but does not specifically recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Hopes of ending sanctions
Palestinian officials hoped the deal would end international sanctions that were slapped on the government after Hamas’ election last year.

But foreign governments said they would wait to study the agreement and to see if the new government had the will — or ability — to prevent ongoing attacks on Israel. On Monday, Gaza militants launched four rockets into Israel, causing no injuries, the Israeli army said.

Haniyeh, who made no mention of Israel in his hourlong speech describing the agreement Monday, also appealed to the international community to lift the sanctions, singling out the U.S., which has responded cautiously to the agreement.

“The American people must review its position ... to come into line with the Palestinian will,” he said. “It must respect the framework of Palestinian democracy.”

During a meeting with the Israeli parliament’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said this is a test for Abbas. Up to now, he said, Abbas has been a Hamas opponent. If the new government makes the same “inflated” demands of Israel, Olmert was quoted as saying, “it will show that (Abbas) has moved from his previous position, toward Hamas.”

Olmert rejected calls to cancel a summit next week with Abbas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, saying he wants to hear more from the Palestinian leader, said Yuval Steinitz, a committee member.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Tom Casey said Rice’s trip is still on. He said the Palestinians have not yet fleshed out the details of their new government, and Rice would talk with Abbas and “see what shape and scope this agreement has taken.”

Abbas was meeting in Jordan on Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia is one of the members of the so-called Quartet of Mideast mediators, along with the U.S., Europe and the U.N.