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Hamas will present government alone if necessary

Written by: Staff
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GAZA, Mar 16 (Reuters) Hamas ended a fifth day of coalition talks today without reaching agreement with any rival Palestinian factions and said it would present a Hamas government next week with or without them.

Two smaller parliamentary blocs informed Hamas they would not join the government being formed by the Islamic militant group.

Other larger factions, including President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah, are also expected to turn Hamas down.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Islamic militant group, which crushed Fatah in a January parliamentary election, had tried to narrow gaps with the other parliamentary blocs to form a broad coalition government.

He said Hamas presented the factions with the group's final offer on Thursday and would give them until ''tonight at the latest'' to inform Hamas of their final decision.

''Regardless of the responses, we are going ahead to present the government and the ministers to the president early next week,'' Abu Zuhri said.

Palestinian officials involved in the talks said the main sticking points were Hamas's refusal to accept existing agreements and respect obligations by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which includes recognition of Israel.

Earlier on Thursday, former Palestinian finance minister Salam Fayyad turned down an offer for his small independent party to join the new government. Fayyad is widely respected and has good relations with the Bush administration.

''Quite frankly, it didn't look to me that what was going to emerge was something that would be adequate to deal with the challenges that we face,'' Fayyad said.

The al-Badeel parliamentary bloc, a coalition of three left-wing groups, also informed Hamas it would not participate in the new government, a source close to the talks told Reuters.

Fatah did not attend Thursday's negotiating session in Gaza, a further sign it had no intention of joining the coalition, a Hamas source said.

''We are not closing the doors to anyone who wants to join until the last minute,'' Abu Zuhri said.

But barring an 11th hour breakthrough, Abu Zuhri said Hamas would move forward with the formation of a government made up of Hamas ministers, technocrats and independents.

REUTERS SK RAI0258

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