- Title: MIDDLE EAST: Officials say Palestinian leaders agree on policy deal
- Date: 27th June 2006
- Summary: CAMERA OPERATORS
- Embargoed: 12th July 2006 13:00
- Topics: International Relations,Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA71491XSZOF1RJ2OFFC8UKN7J8
- Story Text: The governing Hamas movement reached a political agreement on Tuesday (June 27) with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas but said it would continue to refuse to recognise Israel.
Abbas had sought to soften Hamas's hard line towards Israel -- the movement's charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state -- in hopes of ending a U.S.-led boycott of the cash-strapped Palestinian government by Western donor nations.
Hamas, however, insisted it had not bent and that it was sticking to its "agenda of resistance" against Israel.
The original political document, penned by Palestinians in Israeli jails, implicitly recognised Israel.
Palestinian factions have been negotiating amendments to the manifesto, at the heart of a Hamas-Fatah power struggle, for weeks.
"We can say that there has been an agreement on the referendum and now the signing of the council. But the final announcement will be by our brother our leader and the Prime Minister at a press conference and you all will be invited to it. The important thing we can say that all the obstacles were removed in front of the negotiation councils or the Palestinian negotiators," Rawhi Fattouh, a senior aide to Abbas, said after factions meeting in Gaza initialled the accord.
But with Israel and the Palestinians preparing for a possible Israeli offensive in Gaza following the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier, there appeared to be little chance agreement over the document could open a path towards peacemaking soon.
Officials close to the negotiations said Abbas and Haniyeh drafted a platform accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, areas captured by Israel in a 1967 war.
Such a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be in line with Fatah's recognition of Israel.
The deal also appeared likely to lead to the cancellation of a July 26 referendum Abbas scheduled, over Hamas's objections, on the prisoners' document. Such a showdown would have heightened tensions between Fatah and Hamas, whose fighters have clashed repeatedly in recent weeks.
Israel has called the manifesto an internal Palestinian affair and has said it would have no dealings with Hamas until the group recognised its existence, renounced violence and accepted past interim peace deals.
"Internal Palestinian politics is interesting but it is really irrelevant. We have a crisis. We have an Israel serviceman held hostage by a group of terrorists in Gaza," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.
Under the accord, Hamas, leading the Palestinian government on its own after an election victory in January, would agree to form a unity administration with Fatah and other factions, officials said before Fattouh made his statement.
Hamas had insisted it would head any governing coalition, but it was not immediately clear if it won the point in the agreement.
Islamic Jihad, another militant group, said it still rejected several points in the prisoners' document, including the concept of a Palestinian state limited to the West Bank and Gaza.
Some Palestinian sources said the tense security situation, with Israeli armour massing on Gaza's border, had pushed the factions to intensify their efforts to reach a political agreement.
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