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Palestinian Talks Reach Decisive Point
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On Thursday a Palestinian mediator between President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Ismail Haneya said talks on forming a national unity government had reached "a decisive point."

Lawmaker Mustafa al-Barghouti added in a statement released to the press that a unity government could see the light during the coming days "if true intentions were available."
Al-Barghouti made the statement after his meeting with Abbas in Ramallah and ahead of his visit to the Gaza Strip where he would meet Haneya.

The Palestinian political factions have been involved in sporadic talks after they agreed to replace the incumbent Hamas-led government with new faces able to draw international aid and support. The talks have been off and on amid different proposals on the shape of the coming government.

Last month Abbas said he'd like to see a temporary government of independent technocrats as talks between the leaders to form a unity government had been deadlocked over Hamas' refusal to recognize Israel.

However, Hamas rejects the idea of a technocrat government and insists on a national unity group comprising all political factions. Hamas lawmaker Salah al-Bardawil said on Thursday that an agreement had been reached to dismiss the proposal of forming a technocrat government and repeated Hamas' call for a unity government based on the Prisoners Document of National Accordance.

For his part Haneya told reporters on Thursday that the talks aimed at lifting the siege on the Palestinians and end the state of disorder in there were continuing. 

Concerning moves to form a new government Haneya said the talks "would be easy if they maintained the Palestinian people's interests, boosted the national unity and led the siege being lifted."

The international community had boycotted the Hamas-led government since it came to power in March for rejecting to recognize Israel and renounce violence.

Meanwhile Israel Defense Forces (IDF) continued operations in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun on Thursday, an IDF spokesman told Xinhua.

The spokesman said that a group of Palestinian militants fired an anti-tank missile at an IDF tank operating in the area but caused no damage.

According to the Ha'aretz daily three Palestinians were killed on Thursday by Israeli troops bringing the death for them to 11 since the start of the operation in the early hours of Wednesday.

A statement issued by the IDF Thursday said that during the first day of the operation, Israeli troops uncovered large amounts of weaponry in  buildings in Beit Hanoun including rifles, ammunition and night-vision equipment.

Three Palestinians hiding weapons in their home were arrested and taken for questioning, said the statement.

The army spokesman said that the rockets were fired from Beit Lahya, a town west of Beit Hanoun, not from the region dominated by Israeli troops.

Israel started a new round of large-scale military operations in northern Gaza Strip on Wednesday in an attempt to stem Qassam rocket attacks.

(Xinhua News Agency November 3, 2006)

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