US makes demands on Palestinian unity government

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WASHINGTON: The United States said Thursday that Hamas must be committed to non-violence and meet other international demands before Washington can recognize a Palestinian unity government with the radical group s members.

The statement referred to the quartet of the United States, United Nations, Russia and the European Union, which have mapped out the conditions for pursuing Palestinian-Israeli peace.

The quartet has repeatedly called for Palestinian unity in support of a government committed to non-violence, recognition of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations, the State Department said.

We understand this to be the position of Egypt and of the Arab League as well, the State Department statement said.

However, Hamas rejects the conditions.

The statement came following key talks in Washington this week involving Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Middle East envoy George Mitchell and senior diplomat Jeffrey Feltman.

The Egyptian government said Suleiman was in Washington to seek a softer stance on the Islamist movement Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, so that it can participate in an internationally-recognized Palestinian unity government.

However, the State Department statement poured cold water on the idea.

Media reports that Mr. Suleiman was here to press the United States to be more flexible on its position that any unity government must adhere to previous PLO commitments are unfounded, it said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization signed agreements that gave birth to the Palestinian Authority, the US-backed group with which Israel conducts negotiations.

The negotiations in Cairo between the rival Palestinian groups were suspended because of disagreements over setting up a national unity government, but they are due to resume in a few days. -AFP

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