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Hamas Opens Talks On Coalition Government

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei (right) meeting with Hamas political leader Khalid Mish'al in Tehran today (Fars) 20 February 2006 -- The militant group Hamas is today beginning coalition talks to form a Palestinian government despite winning a clear parliamentary majority in January's elections.

Hamas, which controls 74 of 132 parliament seats, could govern alone. But the group says it is seeking coalition partners in order to make the government more acceptable to the outside world.

Israel has moved to isolate a government led by Hamas, which does not recognize the Jewish state.

Khalid Mish'al, a top Hamas leader speaking in Tehran on 19 February, called on regional neighbors to support the choice of the Palestinian voters.

"The Palestinian nation is being held in captivity by the Israeli regime and they need to be supported by the Arab and Islamic countries and community," Mish'al said.

Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Nablus today killed two Palestinian gunmen, including a senior member of the militant group Islamic Jihad.

(AP, Reuters)