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Hamas sees blockade end after coalition deal

Hamas and Fatah signed a coalition deal on Thursday to end factional warfare.

world Updated:
Mohammed Assadi

Palestinian Islamist group Hamas urged the West on Friday to accept a new Palestinian unity government which it said was the only way to ensure stability in the Middle East.

Hamas and Fatah signed on Thursday a coalition deal to end factional warfare and to try to win back Western aid halted because of Hamas's refusal to recognise Israel.

"We have agreed with the Saudis to market this agreement internationally. Our (Saudi) brothers are in constant contact with the Americans and Europeans and I believe there is a possibility to market this agreement," Hamas government spokesman Ghazi Hamad said.

<b1>"They cannot ignore this agreement and impose their own conditions," he said in reference to the United States. "The European Union should open a dialogue with this new government and this is the only way to have stability in the region."

There was a muted international reaction to the accord sealed in Saudi Arabia between Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

The United States, which spearheaded the economic sanctions, was silent. The European Union said on Friday it would study the deal "in a positive but cautious manner".

France welcomed the agreement and said the international community should back the new government. Britain described the accord as "interesting".

Israel and its US ally have said Islamist movement Hamas must renounce violence, recognise Israel and commit itself to existing peace accords before sanctions can be lifted.

Abbas' advisor Nabil Amr said however that he feared the deal might not be enough to end the international sanctions, which Palestinians say were partly to blame for the violence that has killed 90 people since December.

"I cannot say, and we don't have great expectations, that this agreement will completely end the siege, but it will pave the way to end it," he said.

The agreement made no mention of recognising Israel, a requirement laid down by the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers for the lifting of sanctions imposed on the Palestinian Authority after Hamas trounced Fatah in elections last year.

Abbas had been seeking at the Mecca talks a clear statement that the new government would be "committed" to past accords, as a formula offering implicit recognition of Israel from Hamas.

However a letter from Abbas, re-appointing Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas as prime minister, called on Hamas to "abide by the interests of the Palestinian people", and linked that to previous Palestine Liberation Organisation decisions.

First Published: Feb 10, 2007 16:37 IST