Cairo's al-Ahram newspaper reported on Monday similar agreements were being arranged between Egypt and other Palestinian groups, including Yasir Arafat's Fatah party.

The agreements are set to be concluded by the end of September.

In the past, Palestinian factions have strongly rejected any security role for Egypt and Jordan in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In an interview with Aljazeera on Monday, Usama Hamdan, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, confirmed the report.

Hamas reaction

Hamdan distinguished, however, between agreements on Palestinian national unity and those on security arrangements after an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

"We will not agree on any arrangements with the Israeli occupation and will not allow the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip to turn into building an alternative political programme, replacing the ones that have already failed before, such as the Oslo Accord and the road map"

Usama Hamdan,
Hamas

He said all Palestinian factions should be "partners in management", but that they absolutely refuse security arrangements imposed by Israel.

"We are not willing to pay any political price for this enemy. The political price has already been paid by our people's blood," he said.

"Therefore, we will not agree on any arrangements with the Israeli occupation and will not allow the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip to turn into building an alternative political programme, replacing the ones that have already failed before, such as the Oslo Accord and the road map," he added.

Hamdan also said inter-Palestinian talks were ongoing.

Security

Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have said the agreements alone cannot guarantee the rule of law will be upheld and public security will be maintained in the Palestinian territories.

Gaza has been the scene of political unrest in recent weeks that many see as an early indicator of what is to come if post-withdrawal security arrangements are not made.

Sharon's pull-out  plan would give
Israel control of Gaza's borders

To this end, Egypt has asked the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) to nominate 45 officers to send for training in Cairo.

Egypt has already offered to send up to 200 security advisers to Gaza to train the Palestinian police force.

Al-Ahram also said it had learned that an initial agreement had been reached between Egypt and Israel on border security.

The agreement would have Egyptian border guards instead of police patrolling their country's border with Gaza.

Conditions

Egypt has thus far been able to deploy only civilian police armed with light weapons near the border with Israel, under the Camp David Accords signed between the two countries in 1979.

Egyptian officials stress the agreement is conditional upon four essential demands - complete Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip; keeping Gaza's borders open to the world, including allowing the use of Gaza's sea and air ports; geographic mobility between Gaza and the West Bank; and a promise not to re-occupy the Strip.

Arafat has previously rejected
any Egyptian role in Gaza

Sharon's controversial "disengagement plan" envisions dismantling all 21 Gaza Jewish settlements and four in the West Bank - illegal under international law - by 2005. 

As it stands, the plan will allow Israel to maintain control of the air, sea and borders of Gaza, and to re-enter the Strip at anytime.

The al-Ahram report added that Egyptian efforts aim to include the Palestinian Authority as a full partner in negotiations with the Israeli side, and that any agreement must be implemented according
to proposed international resolutions on the subject, including the US sponsored road map to peace.

Egyptian optimism

While it is not yet completely clear whether the Israeli side has agreed to the proposed Egyptian conditions, Egyptian analysts feel there is good reason to believe they are at the very least considering them.

"I think since it was published in a very official manner in al-Ahram, the conditions have to have been proposed to Israel a while ago, and it's even possible that Israel has agreed to the conditions unofficially," said Muhammad Adri Said of the Cairo-based al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies.

"I think the al-Ahram report was written as a feeler, to see how the Palestinian people and the factions will respond... It will take encouragement from all ends to make it work. It's a very sensitive process that is vulnerable to destruction from either side"

Muhammad Adri Said,
Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies

"Since al-Ahram has published the report in this way, it has obviously been taken from strong sources. There is no way the paper will put something out there that burdens the Egyptian government with certain obligations. Otherwise the next morning they will be reprimanded for making false claims."

Said said he was optimistic about the proposed agreements, and said the fact that al-Ahram published the report at all and in such an undisputed manner was a good sign.

"It's a step in the right direction, and I am optimistic it is will work this time. What convinces me is the fact that the [al-Ahram report] on the subject was written in a very clear manner," he told Aljazeera.net

"I think the al-Ahram report was written as a feeler, to see how the Palestinian people and the factions will respond. 

"Something had to be offered for Hamas to agree with Egypt on this, and I think the conditions are the only thing that could have been offered them."

He added: "It will take encouragement from all ends to make it work. It's a very sensitive process that is vulnerable to destruction from either side."