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Wednesday, 8 August, 2001, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Palestinians discuss unity government
Demonstrations at the funeral of a slain Palestinian
Not all Palestinians back Yasser Arafat's PA
By Kylie Morris in Gaza City

Political organisations in the Palestinian territories are considering a proposal that they join the Palestinian Authority (PA) in a government of national unity.

Ideas for a new power-sharing arrangement are also on the agenda of a Palestinian legislative meeting.

The idea of making room for other political parties at the top levels of Palestinian government is not new.

In the last few months inside the territories, different plans to include groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in the political mainstream have been discussed.

Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Tanzim militia of the Fatah movement
Mr Barghouti proposed co-operation
One idea was to give Hamas two ministries within the PA cabinet.

But this week Marwan Barghouti, leader of the Tanzim militia, had another idea: A government of national unity, reflecting the views of not only the PA, but of all the groups who resist Israel.

Failing that, then a national front, giving voice to all political parties, but leaving the business of government to the PA.

Wider political space

This option would allow the authority to continue with the business of negotiating with Israel, but leave political space for groups like Hamas, which oppose that negotiation.

"What is being discussed today is a greater participation in decision-making and greater consultation to achieve the highest possible coordination in the face of a grave onslaught against the Palestinian people," said Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath.

Palestinian Planning Minister Nabil Shaath
Mr Shaath says the PA would not be compromised
"What we want is a political programme that allows this to happen within our commitment to the peace process, which has not in any way changed."

Asked whether the PA would open itself to criticism for lending political legitimacy to Islamist resistance groups, Mr Shaath said the idea of defending the Palestinian people within a commitment to the peace process is beyond criticism.

In Gaza, one Hamas leader said he saw some wisdom in the plan, but predicted resistance from those who did not believe it was the best way to form a government.

Another group, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, said it had rejected a proposal to discuss the plan on the basis that Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was not going to be present.

See also:

08 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israel targets Palestinian police
08 Aug 01 | Middle East
Sharon's Turkey visit divides loyalties
07 Aug 01 | Middle East
Israeli businessman killed in Jordan
30 Jul 01 | Middle East
Israeli helicopters attack Gaza police
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