The Associated Press
February 24, 2009 - 1:00am

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Tuesday a new national unity government that includes rival Hamas must be in place and internationally recognized to manage humanitarian aid for Gaza and the West Bank.

Abbas said he hopes the upcoming round of reconciliation talks would lead Hamas to accept deals with Israel agreed to by previous Palestinian administrations even if they are not in line with the group's own political platform.

"When governments come, they respect and honor the obligations of a previous government," he said, prior to beginning of new talks scheduled for Wednesday. "That's what we ask."

Past efforts have failed to form a unity government between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the more moderate Fatah movement led by Abbas, which controls the West Bank. Hamas, meanwhile, needs Fatah's international legitimacy to get foreign aid to rebuild Gaza, which was devastated in Israel's recent 22-day offensive.

Abbas said Tuesday that one reason previous unity governments failed was because key powers, including Israel and the United States, refused to accept a coalition that included Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

"This [new unity] government must have the acceptance and recognition of all parties," said Abbas, appearing at a brief news conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Abbas said he also hopes the right-wing Israeli government expected to be formed by Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu will accept existing agreements, including those with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

"This must be the position by the Israeli government if we are to have fruitful negotiations," he said.

Abbas was a key player in secret Norwegian-led talks that led to the now-failed Oslo Agreement accords for Middle East peace. Norway was the first Western country to recognize the previous Fatah-Hamas coalition when it took power in 2007.


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