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Abbas: World has to deal with new coalition

But the U.S. says any Palestinian government must meet common international conditions.

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published February 18, 2007


RAMALLAH, West Bank - The world will have to deal with a new Hamas-Fatah coalition even if its platform falls short of international demands such as recognition of Israel, Mahmoud Abbas told a U.S. envoy Saturday, according to an aide to the Palestinian president.

Abbas told State Department official David Welch he will deliver the same message - that he has done his best to moderate the Islamic militants - at an upcoming summit with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the aide.

However, Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni suggested later Saturday that there would be no room for compromise. Speaking at the start of a meeting in Jerusalem, they said any Palestinian government would have to meet the three conditions of international acceptance - recognizing Israel, renouncing violence and accepting previous peace deals with Israel.

"The moderates on the Palestinian side need to understand that the path toward a Palestinian state goes through the renunciation of violence and terrorism and not by compromising with terror," Livni said, in an apparent reference to Abbas.

At Abbas' headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah, the president told Welch that he had no choice but to cut a deal with Hamas, which won parliamentary elections last year. Abbas was elected separately in 2005 and also wields considerable power.

"President Abbas told David Welch that the Mecca agreement was the only possible agreement and the world must deal with it," Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdeneh said. The U.S. side did not comment on the meeting.

The platform of the coalition between Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement falls short of the international demands, containing only a vague promise to "respect" previous peace deals, which could be seen as implied recognition of Israel.

Rice said Saturday she would withhold judgment until the government is formed.

The Hamas government, which resigned Thursday to make way for the new coalition, was hit by an international aid boycott that nearly bankrupted it.

Despite that warning, Abbas went ahead with the new coalition, based on a power-sharing deal reached last week in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

On Thursday, Abbas asked Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas to start forming the new coalition. Haniyeh has five weeks to do so.

In the West Bank, gunmen opened fire early Saturday on the home of a Hamas Cabinet member, Planning Minister Samir Abu Eisha, breaking some windows, but causing no injuries.