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Fatah, Hamas agree to form interim government, hold vote

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GAZA (Reuters) – Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah movement and its bitter rival, the Islamist Hamas, struck a deal on Wednesday to form an interim unity government and fix a date for general election, both sides said.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise because of profound Fatah-Hamas divisions over how to resolve generations of conflict with Israel, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

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“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, the Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told Reuters. He added that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

The accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by the Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was hatched by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah Central Committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings on all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” the statement said.

It said the agreement would allow Egypt to invite all Palestinian factions to sign a national reconciliation agreement in Cairo in the next few days.

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Restoring Palestinian unity is seen as crucial to reviving any prospect for a Palestinian state based on peaceful co-existence alongside Israel. Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian movement until a 2006 election victory by Hamas, backs negotiated peace but the Islamists reject it.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organization to allow Hamas to join it.

A senior Egyptian intelligence official told Reuters that he expected Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus, to attend the signing of the agreement in Cairo.

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(Reporting by Marwa Awad and Ayman Samir; Writing by Sami Aboudi and Crispian Balmer; editing by Mark Heinrich)

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