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Abbas freezes unity govt talks, blames Hamas -aides

Written by: Staff
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RAMALLAH, West Bank, Sep 17 (Reuters) Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has frozen talks on forming a unity government after Hamas said it would not accept existing peace deals with Israel, two of his aides said today.

The impasse threatens to unravel Palestinian efforts to end international isolation and restore direct Western aid that was cut when the militant Hamas movement took office in March.

Ahmad Abdel-Rahman, one aide, said negotiations would be frozen until Abbas returned from a trip to New York later this week, where he will attend a UN meeting.

''The president has frozen measures to form a unity government after the conflicting statements issued by Hamas and its leaders, which have prompted unfavourable international reactions,'' Abdel-Rahman told Reuters.

Aides blamed comments by Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas in particular for the tensions.

Yesterday, Haniyeh insisted a document penned by Palestini an prisoners in Israeli jails that serves as the basis for the unity guidelines ''does not recognise the occupation'' -- Hamas's term for Israel -- nor accepts existing peace deals.

PAST AGREEMENTS The unity coalition deal states the new government would ''honour'' past agreements, Abbas aides have said.

''At the time the president is trying to market the unity government programme to international envoys, Haniyeh and Hamas officials announce they are not committed to (past peace) agreements and have retracted on the agreement reached with President Abbas,'' Abdel-Rahman said: Abbas and Haniyeh reached a deal on forming a unity government last Monday.

Hamas has since insisted the accord did not mean it would recognise Israel, which it is sworn to destroy.

The Quartet of West Asia mediators -- the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and Russia -- have called on Hamas to renounce violence and recognise the Jewish state and the interim peace deals it signed with the Palestinians.

Palestinian officials said the United States had made clear it objected to the terms set for a unity government.

The European Union has praised Abbas's deal with Hamas and suggested direct aid could be renewed to ease a deep Palestinian economic crisis.

REUTERS LL PM1213

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