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Fatah-Hamas negotiations break down

TALKS between the rival Palestinian groups Hamas and Fatah broke up yesterday, without a deal on a national unity government, participants said.

The break-up of the Egyptian-mediated talks came just two days after negotiations in Cairo between Hamas and Israel over a prisoner swap ran aground.

The deadlock in both negotiating tracks raises questions about plans by the international community to rebuild parts of Gaza, devastated in Israel's recent military offensive against Hamas.

Gaza's borders have been virtually sealed since Hamas seized the territory by force in June 2007, and international aid groups have said reconstruction is impossible without open borders.

However, reopening the border hinged on the success of parallel negotiations ?? on a Palestinian unity deal and on the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners.

In the unity talks, Hamas and its moderate Fatah rivals were trying to agree on the terms of a joint coalition for an interim unity government that would set the stage for elections by next January.

The key sticking point was the program of the new government.

Fatah negotiators said the new government must commit to the program of the PLO, which recognized Israel in 1993. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel.


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