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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 February 2006, 20:32 GMT
Abbas holds first Hamas meeting
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party lost to Hamas in last week's election
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas has held his first talks with Islamic militants Hamas since the group's shock election win last week.

A Hamas leader said both sides agreed in Gaza City to convene parliament on 16 February, kicking off the process of forming a new government.

Hamas won a majority of seats in the Palestinian assembly, beating Mr Abbas' governing Fatah party.

Hamas is under international pressure to renounce violence against Israel.

Hamas has so far refused to do so, although it has said it is willing to merge its military wing into a Palestinian army.

'First step'

Hamas leaders emerged from the talks in Gaza City clearly pleased by the way they had gone, the BBC's Alan Johnston reports.

"We agreed with the president (Mr Abbas) to hold the first session of the legislative council on 16 February," Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told reporters in Gaza City.

Hamas supporters at a rally in Gaza City
Hamas has refused to recognise Israel
Hamas officials said they expected Mr Abbas to formally invite the group to establish a new government soon afterwards.

But exactly what sort of administration will emerge is not yet clear, our correspondent says.

Hamas says it wants to form a government of national unity that would include Fatah. But it says it is ready to govern alone if Fatah does not agree to such a partnership.

A purely Hamas-led government would be likely to have a very difficult relationship with the US, EU and Israel, all of which regard the party as a terrorist organisation.

After the Gaza talks, one of the Hamas leaders reiterated that his group had no intention of recognising "the Israeli enemy".

Mr Abbas has said he may formally ask a party to form a government only after MPs convene.

"Officially the first step is to inaugurate the parliament and then I will ask one side to prepare this government. I think this side will be Hamas," Mr Abbas said on Friday.


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