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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 13:14 GMT
Hamas presses for unity coalition
Ismail Haniya with Mahmoud Abbas
Haniya is due to meet Abbas again at 1800 (1600 GMT)
The Hamas militant group is continuing efforts to build a Palestinian unity government, hours before its candidate is expected to be named PM-designate.

Leaders say they are holding more rounds of talks on Tuesday with other Palestinian parties in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is expected to hand Ismail Haniya a formal letter authorising him to form a government at a meeting on Tuesday.

Mr Abbas has insisted Hamas commit to peace with Israel before taking power.

He is expected to repeat demands that Hamas renounce violence, recognise Israel's right to exist and adopt past peace agreements.

So far Hamas has not given any ground, but observers say both it and the Palestinian leadership appear keen to avoid confrontation at the moment.

Hamas capitalised on dissatisfaction with Mr Abbas's mainstream Fatah faction to win parliamentary elections in January.

It says it wants to form a national unity coalition, but several other groups, including Fatah have so far said they will not take part.

Israeli sanctions

Mr Haniya told the Arab satellite network al-Jazeera that talks were under way "at home and abroad" - including with Fatah - to reach an acceptable government.

"Clearly, the Hamas movement is serious about continuing the consultations... with brothers in the Fatah movement and with other personalities," he said.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) has already agreed in principle to join a Hamas-led government.

Israel has said it will seek to apprehend any PFLP prisoners freed from Palestinian jails under a deal with Hamas.

Meanwhile, Hamas talks with the head of Fatah's parliamentary bloc were postponed on Tuesday after the Fatah member was prevented from travelling to Gaza, a Hamas spokesman said.

After being given authority by Mr Abbas, Mr Haniya will have five weeks to form a government.

Israel and its main ally, the United States, have already taken steps to isolate Hamas, which they brand a terrorist organisation.

Hamas has launched dozens of suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis, but has largely held to a ceasefire for more than a year.

The group, which is committed to the destruction of Israel, says the attacks are legitimate resistance to Israeli occupation.

Tehran talks

The head of the Hamas political bureau said a decision on negotiating with Israel would only come if it withdrew from Palestinian land and recognised Palestinian rights.

Khaled Meshaal being readied for a media appearance in Tehran
Meshaal heads Hamas' branch in exile in Damascus

Khaled Meshaal made the comments in Tehran which he visited as part of a regional tour to drum up support following the election victory.

"The Israeli leadership is bunkering down in unilateral acts to assure the security interests of Israel, without taking note of the interests of the Palestinians.

"Consequently negotiating with Israel on this basis is a waste of time," he said.

He condemned Israel's decision to withhold tax and customs duties from the Palestinians Authority as unjust, but he added that "we can compensate with the help of the Arab and Islamic world".

He added that Iran's role "in the future of Palestine should continue and increase".




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