Haniya begins unity talks

Concerns over how the new unity government will be received by the West.

    Haniya has said he hopes the new government
    will be in place within three weeks [AP] 

    US visit
    Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state is currently on a tour of the Middle East and will meet Ehud Olmert, the Israeli prime minister, in Jerusalem on Sunday before a meeting with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in Ramallah.
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    The US has so far avoided commenting directly on the unity government and postponed any decision about resuming aid to the Palestinian Authority until the formation of the new cabinet.
    But diplomats and Palestinian officials have said the US also warned Abbas it would boycott all ministers in the new government, including non-Hamas members, unless its demands were met.
    Amr Moussa, the secretary general of the Arab league, told Al Jazeera that a continued boycott by the US would be a "negative stand."
    Abderrahman Zaidan, a Palestinian member of parliament, told Al Jazeera: "The whole of the Palestinian spectrum has agreed on certain principles in order to deal with the international community."
    As a result he said he had seen "softer language from the Americans in the last few days".
    Top of the agenda

    Rice will meet with Olmert and Abbas
    for three-way talks on Monday [EPA]

    Rice's meetings are due to culminate on Monday in a three-way talks between Rice, Olmert and Abbas, where discussion of the unity government is expected to top the agenda.
    Barnaby Phillips, reporting for Al Jazeera from Jerusalem, said: "It is really the irony of the Mecca agreement that it has brought about a measure of Palestinian unity but it potentially makes Mahmoud Abbas a more difficult person for the US and Israel to deal with.
    "If he cannot wring certain concessions from Hamas it is going to make it much more complicated for Condoleezza Rice to deal with him."
    Israel has expressed scepticism about Abbas' power-sharing agreement with Hamas.
    The Quartet, comprising the EU, Russia, the UN and the US, has said any new administration should renounce violence and recognize Israel and past peace deals.
    Abbas and Khaled Meshaal, the exiled Hamas leader, signed a power-sharing accord on February 8 in Saudi Arabia.
    Under the terms of the agreement Hamas will take 10 cabinet posts including Haniya, Abbas' secular Fatah faction six, and others four.
    The key finance ministry will go to Salam Fayad, from the Third Way party, and the foreign ministry to Ziad Abu Amr, an independent Palestinian member of parliament.
    It has not yet been decided who will be responsible for the interior ministry.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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