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Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gaza City - Hamas said Tuesday that although it would still not recognize Israel, the unity government which it is building with the more moderate opposition Fatah party would follow a "different policy."

"Hamas' position towards recognition of Israel won't change," the ruling Islamic militant group's new spokesman, Fawzi Barhoom, said.

But hinting at a possible indirect recognition by the planned unity government of Israel's right to exist, he added: "Certainly the position of Hamas is different from that of the new national unity government, which would not be based upon (either) Hamas or Fatah ideologies, but on the prisoners' document."

Barhoom even went as far as to deny as "inaccurate" an Israeli newspaper report, which quoted him as saying the new unity government would not recognize Israel or accept a two-state solution.

He also confirmed that Mohammed Shbair, a professor at Gaza's Islamic University who is not a member of Hamas but is close to the organization, would be the prime minister of the new government.

The formula is a face-saving solution that would allow Hamas to stand by its hardline stance toward Israel, but at the same satisfy international demands for a renunciation of violence, recognition of the Jewish state and honouring past interim peace deals.

Satisfying these demands would end the political and economic boycott European countries and the United States have imposed on the current, Hamas-led government when it took power nearly eight months ago.

Senior Fatah officials told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa that Abbas decided to establish a national unity government based on the letter of appointment he handed to the current premier, Ismail Haniya, when charging him with the task.

The letter includes recognizing President George W Bush's vision of solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the two-state - Israeli and Palestinian - solution.

The officials said Abbas has sent independent lawmaker Mustafa Barghouti to Damascus to meet with exiled Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal, to get his approval of the letter.

In the West Bank, meanwhile, Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian militant when they opened fire during a gunfight in Nablus, Palestinian security officials said.

A large Israeli army unit raided the al-Ein refugee camp in the northern West Bank city to arrest militants and exchanged heavy gunfire with local militants, the officials said.

Baha Khateri, 25, identified as a member of the Abu Ali Mustafa Brigades, the military wing of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, was killed in the shootout.

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