The new government has received a mixed response from the international community.

US response

Sean McCormack, the US state department spokesman, said on Monday that some contacts with the Palestinian Authority were planned.

"Our position is that we are not going to suspend contacts solely based on an individual's membership in the national unity government. We are going to take a look at that on a case-by-case basis," he said.

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McCormack stressed that the US had no plans to lift the economic and diplomatic blockade imposed in March 2006 in a bid to pressure the ruling Hamas group to recognise Israel, renounce violence and accept interim peace deals.

The unity government says it will "respect" previous agreements with Israel, but its platform does not call for recognising Israel and asserts that Palestinian resistance against the Israeli occupation in "all its forms" is a legitimate right.

Meshaal was optimistic that the Palestinian government would overcome the financial difficulties, saying: "I don't think the international community will continue imposing a siege on the Palestinian Authority and punishing the Palestinian people.
 
"The Arab states will take practical steps to implement the decisions taken at the Khartoum summit which defined the financial commitment of the Arab states towards the Palestinian government."

Britain plans to allow diplomatic contacts with non-Hamas ministers, while Russia and France have both reacted positively to the new administration.

Diplomatic relations

Norway ended its diplomatic boycott of the Palestinian government on Monday when it has restored full relations with the Palestinian Authority and an official met the Palestinian prime minister.

Norway was the first country to re-establish
diplomatic relations with the Palestinians [EPA]
Raymond Johansen, Norway's deputy foreign minister, said: "We hope that all the European countries, and even other countries, will ... support this unity government.
 
"We hope that this unity government will work hard in order to fulfil the expectations from the international community."
 
The position of the European Union, of which Norway is not a member, has yet to be announced.
 
Israeli officials have played down Johansen's meetings with Haniya and Ziyad Abu Amr, the new Palestinian foreign minister, saying economic sanctions against the Hamas-led government remain in place.
 
On Sunday, Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, vowed to boycott the new government, including non-Hamas ministers, and urged other governments to continue the aid embargo.

Security appointment

However, the first cracks appeared in the long-awaited coalition on Monday as Hamas accused Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, of illegally appointing a senior Fatah official as national security adviser.

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"Hamas sees the step by President Mahmoud Abbas to appoint Mohammad Dahlan, a lawmaker, as his adviser for the national security as a violation to the Palestinian law," a statement said.

"We urge President Abbas to go back to the law and to examine the decision accordingly."

Dahlan, who led a crackdown on Hamas in the 1990s, will serve as the senior security adviser to the president and secretary of a new umbrella Palestinian National Security Council that will oversee the divided security services.

Meshaal acknowledged that the criticisms could have been a mistake saying: "We should sort things out internally."

Hamas activists have previously accused Dahlan of planning to assassinate Haniya and unofficially commanding pro-Fatah forces during the recent factional fighting.