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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 June 2006, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Fatah deploys new W Bank militia
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
The deadline set by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is looming
A new militia loyal to Palestinian head Mahmoud Abbas has taken up positions in the West Bank town of Jenin.

This comes a few weeks after the Hamas-led government deployed its own new force in Gaza.

The commander of the new militia said it would support the official forces. But the Hamas deputy PM Nasser Shaer has denounced it as "unacceptable".

Correspondents say the creation of the militia is likely to worsen tensions between Hamas and Mr Abbas' Fatah.

The head of the new force, Ata Abu Rimela, said there was no connection between the new Fatah force and the Hamas force.

"This force is directed against nobody, it only aims to protect the Palestinian national project," he told the AFP news agency.

Mr Abbas is reported to have begun meeting with leaders of the various political factions to try and settle their differences, but the Hamas representative is said to be absent.

Mr Abbas warned on 25 May that he would call a referendum on an initiative drawn up by jailed faction leaders if rival factions failed to agree a political programme within 10 days.

It sets out formal Palestinian claims to an independent state on land occupied by Israel in 1967, as well as the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to former homes inside Israel.

Salary issue

Earlier on Saturday, Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razeq said some 40,000 Palestinian civil servants were to be paid a month's salary on Monday.

On Friday, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya promised all government employees would be paid within two days.

The authority's 165,000-strong workforce has not been paid for more than three months.

The financial crisis began when Western donors halted direct aid after the election of Hamas, which refuses to recognise Israel or renounce violence.

Israel and the Palestinians



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