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Hamas Asked To Form Palestinian Government

Mahmud Abbas (file photo) (RFE/RL) 18 February 2006 -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas has asked the militant Hamas organization to form the next Palestinian government as quickly as possible.

Abbas spoke today at the opening session of the Hamas-dominated Palestinian parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah after the new legislators were sworn in. Abbas also called upon Hamas to recognize existing agreements with Israel.

He said the Hamas victory in last month's parliament election -- and the defeat of his Fatah Party -- have led to "a new political reality."

Abbas said Hamas must recognize existing agreements with Israel and accept peace negotiations as a strategic choice. Hamas has rejected the idea of peace talks with Israel.

The next step would be for Hamas to name its candidate for prime minister. Hamas said its choice is the group's pragmatic Gaza leader Ismail Haniyah, who in the past served as a liaison between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority.

Israel and the international community have said they will not recognize a Hamas government if the group does not renounce violence, recognize Israel and honor existing peace agreements.

(compiled from agency reports)