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Palestinian leader: Unity talks are off

By TIMES WIRES
Published October 5, 2006


RAMALLAH, West Bank - Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday his agreement with the ruling Hamas militant group on forming a more moderate coalition government was off.

A preliminary coalition agreement between Abbas' Fatah Party and Hamas, announced Sept. 11, "is over now, and we have to start from square one," he said, but he did not rule out the renewal of talks at a later date.

Abbas also said a new Cabinet must be formed to end a recent surge in violence that claimed 10 lives in three days. He did not elaborate, but Abbas holds wide-ranging constitutional powers that include the authority to disband the current government.

But Public Works Minister Abdel Rahman Zaidan of Hamas said the two sides were in "the final stages" of forming a so-called national unity government.

During a visit to the West Bank, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday the United States wants to help improve the daily lives of Palestinians. She said she is looking for ways to allow freer movement of people and goods across the Palestinians' borders with Israel and Egypt. Rice also said she would like to increase resources for humanitarian relief, but made no specific pledge of U.S. aid.

Mexico City legislators recognize president-elect

MEXICO CITY - A spokeswoman for leftist legislators from Mexico City said Wednesday they would recognize conservative Felipe Calderon as president-elect, despite orders to shun him as part of protests over the July 2 election their party claims was fraudulent.

Nancy Cardenas said she was making the statement on behalf of the dominant 34-member delegation of the Democratic Revolution Party in the Legislature representing the capital - a stronghold of party ex-presidential candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

Widow of former Cuban dictator dies in Florida

WEST PALM BEACH - Marta Fernandez de Batista, the widow of former Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, died at her home Monday (Oct. 2, 2006), her son, Roberto Batista, said Wednesday. She was 82.

She had suffered a heart attack on Sept. 8 and was at her West Palm Beach home under hospice care, her son said.

Her husband was pushed out of power by Fidel Castro's rebels more than 47 years ago.